Avebury

May 6th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

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Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948 – 2015)

May 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Book Review – “Pig Earth” John Berger (1979)

May 3rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Yes, most definitely. Great character-driven short stories about French peasants, with poems inbetween. Long live the cocodrille.

The Hanford Site

April 28th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

As mentioned in a recent post, these are images of the Hanford Nuclear Production Complex in Washington state, USA. (Click to enlarge)

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“A Journey to Avebury” Derek Jarman (1971)

April 26th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The Diomede Islands, Nuclear Waste & the Holy Unmercenaries

April 22nd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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I am currently working on ceramics based on various landscapes. One of the sites I have been looking at are the ‘Diomede Islands‘, in the Bering Strait. The two islands, one ‘Big’ and the other ‘Little Diomede’ are known in Russia as the Gvozdev Islands. The are literally the closest point between the USA and Russia – the larger island being Russian, the smaller American, and a distance of 2.4 miles lies between them, but 21 hours in international time. In 1987 Lynne Cox travelled through space, time and political waters by swimming between the two islands.

Lynne Cox swimming from Little Diomede to Big Diomede 1987

The islands are/were also known by their indigenous names ‘Imaqliq’ and ‘Ignaluk’ – the indigenous people were moved off the islands, ‘relocated’ in Russia, never to return, while Little Diomede has a small Inupiat Inuit population. Big Diomede now seems to have only Russian military units of some sort. On Google Earth, altitude information normally shows up wherever you go, but over Big Diomede, there is no information, just an inexplicable straight edged ridge running along the eastern side of the island (this doesn’t correspond to photos of the islands). I have managed to find out contour information elsewhere though. The islands were ‘rediscovered’ (?) by a Danish navigator, in Russian service on the 16th August 1728, ‘St Diomede’s’ Day in Orthdox Russian Christianity. St. Diomedes is a ‘Holy Unmercenary‘ saint – amongst others are Damien and Cosmas who I posted last month about.

The Unholy Mercenaries

He was a physician, who when he was beheaded, caused those around his body to go blind. Only when the head was restored to the body was their sight in turn restored. The Holy Unmercanaries were saints who did not accept payment for good deeds, though I would have thought all saints should have been like that.

Around 9 miles south-east of the islands, lies a small islet called ‘Fairway Rock‘ a lump of granite providing nesting ground for various birds.

In 1966, the US Navy put a strontium powered RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) on the island to power an oceanographic station which monitored detectors on the ocean floor looking for submarine traffic heading north. The RTG’s were seen as a useful way of using nuclear waste, and another two were added to the island. In 1995, all three were removed and taken to Hanford Nuclear Reservation for disposal.

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RTG’s (if I’ve understood correctly…) convert heat released by the decay of radioactive material into electricity. Strontium, plutonium, polonium, americium… there are apparently thousands of RTG’s rotting away all over Russia.

“…discussing the issue of safe and secure use of isotope products in the “global”
sense, we must admit the obvious: this is an issue of urgency due to a number of reasons.One of them is the threat posed by different terrorist organizations in the world, disintegration
of the former Soviet territory, that led to the loss of control over sources, and in some cases to the loss
of sources as such. For example, unsanctioned opening of RITEGs by local populace in Kazakhstan
and Georgia to obtain non-ferrous metals. For some, the dose that they have been exposed to turned
out to be too high.” (Report by Minister of the Russian Federation for Atomic Energy Mr. A. Yu. Rumyantsev at the IAEA Conference on the Security of Radioactive Sources Vienna, Austria, March 11 2003)

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Plutonium pellet

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RTG on the Moon

Interestingly, there are 5 plutonium powered RTG’s on the moon, having been left their to power experimental equipment. There are also a number of ‘lost’ RTG’s including one which Apollo 13 was carrying when it reentered Earths atmosphere – it was lost somewhere near Fiji in the ‘Tonga Trench‘.

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Tests have apparently shown that the plutonium therein has not escaped, and the cask containing the plutonium is expected to last around 870 years. The failed Russian Mars mission of 1996 brought back 2 RTG’s containing 200g of plutonium plummeting to earth, somewhere to the east of Chile.

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What Mars 96 was meant to do

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the Fairway Rock RTG’s were taken for disposal, is part of the ‘Hanford Site‘, an enormous decommissioned nuclear production complex in Washington state (where apparently there is a leak which is getting worse). It was established as part of the Manhattan Project, and plutonium manufactured there was used in the first nuclear bomb, and the bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. Looking at the site on Google Earth is quite unnerving. I will put another post up of some images later.

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Billboard at the Hanford Site

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Very close to the Hanford Site, is Hanford Reach National Monument, a 195,000 acre, untouched since 1943, (when the nuclear site was built) kind of reservation park. The site was, unsurprisingly, once a hunting ground for Native Americans. There are a number of rare, threatened or endangered species of animals and plants there, including elk and Chinook Salmon, which spawn in the Columbia River there.

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The Diomede Islands, separated by a couple of miles, but 21 hours and conflicting ideologies. The Hanford Site and the Hanford Reach National Monument, separated by the Columbia River and conflicting approaches to the management and engagement of the environments we choose to shape. I’d be interested to know if the plant and animal life on one side of the river is able to inhabit the other side, and vice versa – whether there is some kind of microbial version of Lynne Cox.

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Hanford Reach National Monument and Hanford Site seperated by the Columbia River – click to enlarge

Book Review – “The Sixth Extinction” Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)

April 20th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Yes. Clear and not overly academic. “Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will be forever closed.”

Book Review – ‘The Living Mountain’ Nan Shepherd (1977)

March 26th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Living Mountain

Most definitely yes. Clear, concise, deceptively simple. Worth reading the whole book to get to this bit:

“Why some blocks of stone, hacked into violent and tortured shapes should so profoundly tranquillise the mind I do not know. Perhaps the eye imposes its own rhythm on what is only a confusion: one has to look creatively to see this mass of rock as more than jag and pinnacle – as beauty. Else why did men for so many centuries think mountains repulsive? A certain kind of consciousness interacts with the mountain-forms to create this sense of beauty. Yet the forms must be there for the eye to see. And forms of a certain distinction: mere dollops won’t do it. It is, as with all creation, matter impregnated with mind: but the resultant issue is a living spirit, a glow in the consciousness, that perishes when the glow is dead. It is something snatched from non-being, that shadow which creeps in on us continuously and can be held off by continuous creative act. So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.”

Book Review – “A Seventh Man” John Berger & Jean Mohr (1975)

March 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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YES.

When I was a boy and living in Germany, I played football for the local village team. It was a mixture of Germans and British sons of RAF parents. Over the 4-5 years of playing for them, we would often play teams who had a few ‘Turkish’ kids in their team. These were likely 2nd generation immigrants, the sons of some of the people that this book talks about. The few immigrants seeking work who were able to stay in Germany and bring/have their family there.

I do remember being told on more than one occasion (though the way childhood memory works, who can be sure?) by team mates, both British and German, that the Turks were ‘cheats’, ‘dirty’ and ‘smelly’. I can see in my minds eye the German boys holding their noses so I could fully understand.

The one distinctive memory I actually have of playing against a Turkish boy was during a game on a very hot summers day. A lot of the pitches we played on weren’t grass, but a kind of terracotta dust. It would kick up and get in your eyes, and if you did a sliding tackle it would leave a huge dirty mark along your leg like a hakeme brush. When I sweated, the drips down my forehead would collect the dust and create little trails down my face.

This boy (we were probably 9 or 10 years old) had tiny feet which made the ball look even bigger than it was, but he had incredible control, and could do Cruyff turns. He was very short but strong and had a big arse. His hair was thick and dark and curly and I couldn’t get the ball off him. I can picture him running around me and away as I desperately tried to grab his shirt, and lunged into a sliding tackle that got nowhere near him or the ball.

Mesut Özil was born in Gelsenkirchen in October 1988, a 3rd generation Turkish-German (“My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part”), around the time I was in Germany (1986 – 1991). Gelsenkirchen was around 60 miles from where we lived, and in the 70’s many Turks made their way to this part of Western Germany to work in the then numerous factories.

Özil is my favourite footballer. There is a strange beauty in the way his body moves, the balance and grace and the certainty of movement. When he passes the ball he never overhits it, or underhits it – it is perfectly struck to allow the receiving player to take the ball without breaking stride. He can shape his body to make it appear he is about to do something else, without it being a showy dance like Ronaldo. What I really like is that he sees where other players are on the pitch, and can put the ball in the right place at the right time. I think at Arsenal it probably took the other players a season or so to realise that they could make unusual runs, and that they would be seen – to trust in Özil’s ability to find them. By having this ability, he creates unusual patterns on the pitch, of movement of players and the ball. He creates and that’s why I like him.

This book, like all of Berger’s, is sensitive and empathetic and generous. It’s specific subject matter (generally male workers from Portugal, Turkey and Greece moving to France and Germany) may be a little out of date, but the overarching theme of the trials and stresses and strains of being an immigrant is clearly relevant now. There is no real mention of refugees as such, or women and children, but if you want to try to understand what an immigrant may have to deal with when coming to a new country, you should read this book.

"The Seventh (A hetedik)" - Attila Jozsef (1905 - 1937)
If you set out in this world,
better be born seven times.
Once, in a house on fire,
once, in a freezing flood,
once, in a wild madhouse,
once, in a field of ripe wheat,
once, in an empty cloister,
and once among pigs in sty.
Six babes crying, not enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.

When you must fight to survive,
let your enemy see seven.
One, away from work on Sunday,
one, starting his work on Monday,
one, who teaches without payment,
one, who learned to swim by drowning,
one, who is the seed of a forest,
and one, whom wild forefathers protect,
but all their tricks are not enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.

If you want to find a woman,
let seven men go for her.
One, who gives heart for words,
one, who takes care of himself,
one, who claims to be a dreamer,
one, who through her skirt can feel her,
one, who knows the hooks and snaps,
one, who steps upon her scarf:
let them buzz like flies around her.
You yourself must be the seventh.

If you write and can afford it,
let seven men write your poem.
One, who builds a marble village,
one, who was born in his sleep,
one, who charts the sky and knows it,
one, whom words call by his name,
one, who perfected his soul,
one, who dissects living rats.
Two are brave and four are wise;
You yourself must be the seventh.

And if all went as was written,
you will die for seven men.
One, who is rocked and suckled,
one, who grabs a hard young breast,
one, who throws down empty dishes,
one, who helps the poor win;
one, who worked till he goes to pieces,
one, who just stares at the moon.
The world will be your tombstone:
you yourself must be the seventh.

Craters of the World

March 4th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Click to enlarge the craters…

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