Up Close and Personal

I’m reblogging this post from one of my favorite blogs, Champagnewhisky, because saving wildlife for our children and grandchildren is a subject close to my heart. I also thought the pictures were wonderful!

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It’s generally acknowledged that we are now officially in the midst of a major phase of extinction when it comes to plant and animal life on our home planet. Whether it’s called the Sixth, the Holocene or the Anthropocene Extinction, this wave of die-offs is the biggest in almost 70 million years, when three-quarters of all plant, animal and sea life perished in the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction.

Pangolin and Pangolin Man. Images of the pangolin keepers who rescue and rehabilitate pangolins, the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world, hunted for its meat and scales. Image: Adrian Steirn via Africa Geographic Pangolin and Pangolin Man. Images of the pangolin keepers who rescue and rehabilitate pangolins, the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world, hunted for its meat and scales.
Image: Adrian Steirn via Africa Geographic

There are a couple of key differences between these two major extinction events.

For one thing, the earlier extinction is widely considered to be the result of a massive asteroid impact that had a series of long-lasting effects – but there is some disagreement on that origination story…

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Tsundoku

I recently came across the word Tsundoku which I find greatly amusing. According to Wikipedia:


“Tsundoku” (n.) is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. “Tsundoku” originated as Japanese slang (積ん読) “tsun-doku”. 「積ん読」 came from 「積んでおく」 “tsunde-oku” (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and 「読書」 “dokusho” (reading books).

 

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I’ve always been addicted to books, and like to be surrounded by piles of them, just in case I run out of – horrors – reading matter. And since the time when, on a trip, I finished my book and found myself with no access to a library or bookshop, I’ve also collected a number on Kindle. These are a safety measure, but lack the heft and presence of print.

In my defense, I do read them. I always have two or three on the go. But I will never get through my unread pile in my lifetime, especially since I occasionally like to re-read favorites. But have a clear out? Never!

As they say ‘So many books, so little time’ – or, ‘tsundoku‘!

The Sketchbook travels again

For those of you who read my post The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook, I have finished my contribution and I’m ready to pack it off to the next person on the list, Constanze, in Munich, Germany.

 

Centauromachy 460 BC
Centauromachy 460 BC. (Source:Wikimedia Commons)

 

I wanted to do something referring to Greek history, so what better than the myth about the naming of Athens, which I’ve already written about, in my post Homage to the olive tree.  To make the drawing I took my inspiration from the ancient black and red pots from which one can glean amazing details about life in Ancient Greece – the food, the sport, the fashion, the rituals and the stories. They feature a large cast of gods, goddesses, demi-gods and mere mortals, nymphs, centaurs and satyrs, athletes and animals, as well as household objects, furniture and accessories. A fascinating study.

And now feast your eyes on my masterpiece below:-)

 

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My drawing in the Sketchbook

Standing on the Acropolis rock is Athena, having taken her helmet off, with a belligerent expression on her face. She has just produced an olive tree, using her spear. Poseidon, seated on an elaborate throne, has a rather sheepish look on his face, having lost the contest to a woman, albeit a goddess…

This has been a very amusing project, and I’m curious to see the remaining contributions. So tomorrow I will regretfully pack up the Sketchbook and bid it Bon Voyage.

A start

Despite everything, the end of the year is always a sort of celebration, as it heralds a new beginning. Why should things change, just because the date does? They probably don’t, but there is a feeling that they just might. Hope springs eternal!

However, today we woke to the news of yet another carnage, in Turkey. Wars are raging in many places. It is hard to feel optimistic. Still, life goes on, and rituals have a soothing effect on the soul.

In Greece we observe many traditions for the New Year, which I described last December in my post ‘Ringing in the New Year In Greece.’ It was all about smashing pomegranates on our doorstep, cutting the Vasilopitta (Basil’s cake) to find the lucky coin, about fireworks and gambling! For those of you who joined this blog recently, you might like to take a look (here).

Looking back through my year’s output, I thought it would be fun to see which posts were the most popular each month, based on likes (a rather random method most probably, but the only one available.)

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In January, the honors went to Greek Cuisine, featuring many delicious specialities (here).

In February, people loved The first signs of Spring, with its photographs of anemones and almond blossom (here).

In March, the most popular post was about the old tradition of Clean Monday, subtitled ‘A sky full of kites’ (here).

In April, The Minoans, about a very ancient civilization, proved interesting to a good many people (here).

In May, Day Trip to Mycenae, about another enthralling Ancient Greek civilization, took top honors (here).

In June, BrexitGrexit, what else? captured the popular vote, the only political commentary to do so (here).

In July, you were very complimentary on my completing the World Watercolor Month dare – a watercolor each day for a month. The post was entitled I did it! (here)

In August, the most popular post was Midsummer Blues – photos of lavender, figs, a cat and the sea (here).

In September, the Monthly Q&A, of poet Sofia Kioroglou, was the first to be most popular post in a month (here). This feature is always well received, but never made it to the top before. It was followed closely by ‘A short meditation on walls’ and ‘Messing about with clay.’

In October, everyone fell for Auberginesthe new super food (here). This was quite a productive month, as I also wrote about seahorses, an inspired chef, and the colors of fall.

In November, a lot of interest was shown in the The Ancients Greeks and the Terracotta Army, a fascinating theory about an incredible work of art (here).

In December, people were captivated by the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook (here).

So, moving on, what does this tell me? That you love food, art, photos of flowers and lovely landscapes, history, finding out how people live in another country… These are the things I write about, anyway, so the survey is somewhat irrelevant, especially since there were no huge differences in the number of likes. But still fun!

Regarding the number of posts, my aim was to post about twice a week, so around 8 per month. I’ve achieved an average of 7 per month, so not too bad…

And so, 2017 has started. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

 

Strange days indeed

As the year draws to an end, many among us are reflecting how happy we’ll be to see it go. It has been a very turbulent year, to say the least. A violent year, too, full of wars, terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The situation world-wide is precarious, with Europe teetering after Brexit and America about to embark on a potentially dangerous adventure. Elsewhere, dictators and virtual dictators rule. In the third world, populations are exploding, without the backup to ensure all these people can be fed and employed, thus making the immigration question loom ever larger.
Whether due to man-made climate change or natural causes such as storms on the sun, weather has been both strange and excessive. Floods, earthquakes, tempests and unseasonal heatwaves have been wreaking havoc in many places.

The distribution of wealth is also out of control. Disproportionately huge sums are being earned by some (even, shockingly, by people who work for charities) and spent at art auctions, on racehorses, yachts and other luxury items, while the middle classes are struggling to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Many public institutions are going bankrupt, perhaps because funds have been squandered or misappropriated for years. It is always disturbing to see people sleeping in the streets next to luxury shops in the capitals of the western world – and apparently now 25% of the population of Europe faces slipping below the poverty line. A quarter of the population – it seems incredible.

 

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In Greece, this number is 35%. Between the incapacity of the government and the misguided (self-interested?) handling of the European ‘lenders’, I feel things are going from bad to worse. I see no incentives given for a re-start of the economy, and measures taken to combat corruption and bolster institutions are implemented extremely slowly.

The refugee crisis also remains acute – and will continue to do so, as long as wars and atrocities do not abate. The situation of most of these people is dire – and, because they need to survive somehow, microcosms are formed with a dynamic of their own (for example, the Jungle in Calais) which pose problems to the host country and can only be dismantled at huge cost to all involved. It is frightening to think of the future (or lack of) faced by so many children on our planet in the 21st century. Displaced, dispossessed, uneducated – in a time where normally health and opportunities have improved and should still be improving.

Another worrying development is a rise in intolerance related to immigration but not only. I was shocked to read the following excerpt, from an article in UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph: “Some of Britain’s leading universities are becoming no-go zones for Jewish students because anti-Semitism is rife, the first ever higher education adjudicator has claimed. Baroness Deech, a cross-bench peer, said that institutions may be failing to combat hatred against Jews because they were “afraid of offending” potential benefactors from Gulf states.”
I will make no comment on the above.

This year has also been catastrophic for the music industry and its fans and followers, with the deaths of such icons as David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, and Leonard Cohen, to name the most prominent. Also of other bright names, such as actors Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher and Gene Wilder, as well as Mohamed Ali, Fidel Castro and astronaut John Glen.

However, the year cannot have been all bad – or bad for everyone. There were successes (for example, I don’t think Usain Bolt is complaining), babies born, art and music made, things built. When I Googled ‘Good things that happened in 2016’, I got the following:
– A few animals came off the endangered list (however, quite a few others went on, so I don’t know how it balances up.)
– A solar powered plane circumnavigated the world.
– A number of scientific advances were made (especially in curing disease), including the 3-parent family (look it up, guys!)
– 70,000 Muslim clerics declared a fatwa against ISIS (about time, I should think)
-AND….wait for it…there was the launching of Pokémon Go! I joke not – this was mentioned on various sites as a major event of 2016…

This was my – no doubt biased – view of things. But maybe some of you can add to the list?

Above is a painting I’m doing for the December ArtDare which is set by RISD professor Clara Lieu at art.prof. The theme is ‘2016’. I’m trying to portray the year as I saw it – troubled and violent, as I said above. Still a work in progress.

A festive card

With warmest wishes to all my readers and loyal followers, whether celebrating the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah or any other rite, ritual or feast. Thank you for dropping by and for commenting.

 

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For those of you who have joined the blog recently, last year I wrote a post about celebrating Christmas in Greece. You can read about it here. You can also find a recipe for the delicious butter cookies we call kourabiedes (κουραμπιέδες) here. Enjoy!

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

On April 14, 2016 Anne Lawson, a botanical artist who lives in Melbourne, posted this on her blog: ‘Oh I do love a good idea, and this is one of the best! A travelling sketchbook!’

So she made a sketchbook, drew her own contribution in it, and posted it to the first person on the list of those who’d signed up for the project.
There are 15 of us, and each is to ‘add to the sketchbook when it comes in the post to you. Draw, write, collage, sew, paste in a photograph ~ whatever you would like to contribute. There would be no rules, no themes, just a heartfelt contribution.’
(You can read the whole post here)

I was number 9 on the list. Imagine my excitement when I received a package from Indiana, USA, and opened it to see this:

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Anne had drawn on the cover, and inside the back cover,

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and her contribution was a delicate drawing of the Kakadu Escarpment in Melbourne.

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Next was Kate Chiconi from Baker’s Creek, QLD. (See her blog here) Kate makes the most amazing quilts, so this is what she came up with:

 

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After Kate, Sandra Gay from Ténériffe, QLD (blog here), added an illustrated recipe for ratatouille!

 

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In number 4, we have the stunning drawings of Megan Power from Caulfield, VIC (blog here) – she made a map of the cycling trails in the city, leading to the National Gallery of Victoria,

 

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as well as a beautiful drawing inspired by a painting  by Jules-Bastien Lepage, which is exhibited in the gallery.

 

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Then a poem, by Sandi Worrall-Hart, of Wnadin East, VIC.

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Next, the Sketchbook travelled from Australia to the US, where Alys Milner from SAN Jose, California, (blog here) made an imaginative collage ‘quilt’ from all the previous contributions!

 

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Followed by two more stunning mini quilts by Sue Brown of Mount Vernon, WA (blog here).

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Then, just before me, Usha Gudipalli from Indianapolis (blog here) added another, very colorful,  collage. Again a quilt theme, which I assume has been so popular as it symbolises unity and friendship.

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Now the Sketchbook has travelled to Europe – first stop, Athens, Greece! When I’m done I will send it on to Germany, since there are five more memers of the Sisterhood, two in Germany, one in France, and two in the U.K. Finally, it will go to one more contributor in Australia, then at last back to Anne – we are thinking of maybe scanning it, so each of us has a memento of her own.

I have already thought about my own contribution, of course, but my lips are sealed for the moment, so stay tuned!
(To be continued)