20th November
Cartoon: George Bush's official welcome to Britain.

Exploring the Planets. Great online exhibit.

Richard III Museum, York. (skip intro)
'Perhaps no English King fires the imagination more than Richard III, 'King of England for just 26 months (1483-85).'
Demonised by Shakespeare as a deformed, hunchbacked villain, King Richard is said to have committed numerous brutal murders. Chief among these is the callous murder of his two nephews, Edward Prince of Wales (the uncrowned Edward V) and Richard Duke of York, the so called Princes in the Tower.'
'It is for this crime above all others that history condemns Richard III. But did he do it? Or is he simply the innocent victim of Tudor propaganda? ... '

World Art Treasures: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia.

World Art Treasures: China. "To what can our life on earth be likened? To a flock of geese, alighting on the snow, sometimes leaving a trace of their passage." - Su Dong Po - 11th century.
"Once freed from the distractions of this world, I was at one with harmony; my garden gate opened on a bamboo grove." - Zhu Xi - 12th century.

National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside: Peter Pan.
'Behave to-day, if for the only time.
Take care the Lord Mayor does not find you out.
For heaven's sake don't grow when they remove your swathing sheet.'
- JM Barrie, 16 June 1928.

Cartoons: Wesley Clark Runs for President.

The Slant. 'Vanderbilt's only objective news source.' The satirical magazine of Vanderbilt University.

Collecting for the Kunstkammer. ' "It had embossed on its surface the entire history of the world and mankind. Its wondrousness derived from the cumulative effect of diverse subjects and details and from the bringing together in one space apparently dissimilar things." Thus Homer describes the shield of Achilles, the legendary Greek hero of the Trojan War. The mystical object could have been the keynote piece of a Kunst- und Wunderkammer of the sixteenth century. However, its description also summarizes the theoretical concept of such rooms of art (Kunst) and marvels (Wunder): the Kunstkammer displayed an encyclopedic collection of all kinds of objects of dissimilar origin and diverse materials on a universal scale ... '

Domestic Art. 'During the early fifteenth century, Europe continued to evolve out of a series of medieval feudal states ruled by wealthy landowners into concentrated town centers or cities functioning as powerful economic nuclei. As these cities took on greater political and financial authority, the middle classes, made up of artisans, bankers, and merchants, played more substantial roles in commerce with their greater wealth and independence. Along with this prosperity, particularly marked in Italy, an increased number of palaces and villas were constructed, subsequently creating a greater demand for extravagant furniture and domestic art, both for established aristocratic patrons and the newly wealthy. The Metropolitan's Farnese table (58.57) with marble inlay, commissioned for a wealthy papal family, represents the kind of large, monumental furniture that populated the newly built, spacious interiors of these magnificent palaces ... '

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528). Met exhibit. 'A supremely gifted and versatile German artist of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was born in the Franconian city of Nuremberg, one of the strongest artistic and commercial centers in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He was a brilliant painter, draftsman, and writer, though his first and probably greatest artistic impact was in the medium of printmaking. Dürer apprenticed with his father, who was a goldsmith, and with the local painter Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced woodcut illustrations for major books and publications ... '

Body Art of India. 'Everybody knows Leonardo Da Vinci painted human bodies. But not everybody knows that Indians, for centuries, have used the human body as a medium of art and religious expression. Many of these forms such as the Nama (daily body paitings), Vibhuti (sacred ash) and the Mangalya (the red dot worn by Indian women) have origins in the Hindu rituals. Other forms of body art found in India such as Henna (temporary tattoos), tattoos, body piercing, are very prevalent and are complied here for a pictorial exhibit.'
The henna tattoo on the palms of a bride.

New York City Graffiti @149st.

Barcelona Graffiti.

Vandalism. ``We have initiated an innovative and covert campaign of guerrilla action to subvert the forces of ugliness by exposing them for what they are on their own territory.'' Artists who 'vandalise' billboards.

Ambush in the Streets. 'A photographer's encounter with the stencil art of Paris.'
'Jules Backus began this series in 1993. The narratives unfolded by his Leica are as layered as the cracked and crumbling walls of Paris' working class districts. The stenciled images (pochoirs) he encountered on these walls attracted him immediately...'

City Lights: Vancouver's Neon Heritage. "Vancouver business spends $2 million a year spelling out its virtues in this gas that was discovered by accident, developed commercially by a French traitor who invented the robot bomb, and imprisoned in glass tubes by gentle-lunged craftsmen who dare not burp..."

Japanese Labour Posters. 'This page is an index of on-line exhibit of 2600 posters of the pre-1945 Japan owned by our institute. '
Communist Party posters.

Japanese Manhole Art Museum. 'In Japan, we see variety of beautifully designed manhole here and there. Usually, the design is diffrent from city to city. It may be impossible to show you all the designs all over Japan, but still I will try to find as many designed manholes as I can and take a picture of them to show it on this website.'

Emergence of Advertising in America. 'Emergence of Advertising in America presents over 9,000 images relating to the early history of advertising in the United States. The materials, drawn from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, include cookbooks, photographs of billboards, print advertisements, trade cards, calendars, almanacs, and leaflets for a multitude of products. Together, they illuminate the early evolution of this most ubiquitous feature of modern American business and culture. '

Cinema Treasures. Cinemas from the 1930s to the 1960s, with many images.

Signage in Malakoff, a Paris suburb.

Typographic Signage Project in Chicago. 'The Chicago urban environment is layered with graphic signage that crosses boundaries of time and culture. On a single city block it is possible to see elegant, vintage signage from the early 1900s juxtaposed against modern, color-saturated awnings. Signs designed by the slickest of graphic designers are placed next to handwritten scrawled messages. Signs in English are near signs in other languages advertising the many ethnic businesses springing up in the city. The typographic urban environment is not designed: instead, messages are layered one on top of another, creating an ever changing pastiche of textures, surfaces, stylistic and cultural contrasts. The exuberance of this signage makes the city a visually exciting place to live. '

The Garden of Wales.

Strybing Botanical Gardens, San Francisco. Virtual walk.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Goat Riding an Elephant, India. 'Photograph shows use of an ancient sculpture as a peg to tie the goat.'

Wooden Carving of a King, Congo. 'Kuba kings were sometimes commemorated by 'portraits' that were carved to encapsulate principles of kingship. However, unlike portraiture in European art, these figures, called ndop, were not actual representations of the deceased king but a carving of his spirit, produced after the death of the king. Individual rulers are identified by a small emblem on the plinth at the base of the sculpture. The emblem of King Shyaam aMbul aNgoong, founder of the Bushoong ruling dynasty, is a board game, mancala. Other figures have different emblems. MishaaPelyeeng aNce is commemorated by a drum and Mbop Pelyeeng aNce, a renowned blacksmith, is associated in oral tradition with an anvil stand. Ndop were carved in the eighteenth century, thus making them some of the oldest surviving examples of African wood sculpture...'

Mask, Congo. 'This wooden mask has a fibre fringe or 'beard' and three fur horns. It was worn by the wichi or ritual specialist, and would have been put on and removed in complete secrecy. Its precise function is not known, but it may have been to discourage unruly behaviour. It was associated with the bwadi society that formerly exercised judicial powers and were present at the installation and initiation of chiefs. Its various elements are drawn from a whole range of wild creatures brought together in a single form. '

Wooden Carving of an Ancestor Figure, Congo. 'The Luba are the largest complex of culturally related groups in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were united in a great military confederacy two centuries ago. Worship of ancestors is an important feature of life and various figures are carved for these purposes. This statuette with a ringed neck is typical of the Niembo group. The face is full and round suggesting inner calm; the eyes downcast, suggesting both insight and deference to the spirit world; the hair is dressed with a finely carved diadem in front with horizontal decorated plaits behind folded into vertical plaits, a hairstyle typical of the southern regions.'

A to Z of London Pubs.

19th November
Beautiful Stuff.

Burgundian Netherlands: Court Life. Renaissance art. 'The Burgundian Netherlands refers to an area encompassing the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) and northern France during the period when it was ruled by the dukes of Burgundy, from the end of the fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century. Most of these territories came into the possession of the Burgundian dukes—who were descended from the French royal house of Valois—in 1384, with the death of Louis de Mâle, count of Flanders. Louis' son-in-law Philip the Bold (1342–1404), first Valois duke of Burgundy, thus inherited the counties of Flanders, Artois, Rethel, Burgundy, and Nevers (through his wife, Margaret of Flanders), initiating an era of Burgundian governance that would last until 1477, when the duchy of Burgundy reverted to France, and the Netherlands passed to the Habsburg dynasty...'

Burgundian Netherlands: Private Life. 'Stimulated by the presence of the Burgundian court, the Southern Netherlands became one of the most powerful and artistically sophisticated regions in Europe during the fifteenth century. Talented artists flocked to Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, and Leuven—centers where the dukes governed or kept residences—in the hope of finding employment, of benefiting from this new source of wealth and patronage. But though the Burgundian court was the single most important artistic patron during the period, private citizens were no less interested in using art to express their spiritual concerns and personal ambitions. For citizens of the Low Countries, art served widely diverse functions, from religious to decorative, and was produced in a broad range of media, from book illumination to tapestry. At over half a millennium's remove, these works allow us perhaps our most vivid look into the private lives of the Burgundian Netherlands.'

The Chopine. 'Developed in the early sixteenth century and especially popular among Venetian women, the high-platformed shoe called the chopine had both a practical and symbolic function. The thick-soled, raised shoe was designed to protect the foot from irregularly paved and wet or muddy streets. But the enhancement of the wearer's stature also played a role.'
'The chopine's height introduced an awkwardness and instability to a woman's walk. The Venetian woman who wore them was generally accompanied by an attendant on whom she would balance. Despite the obvious expense, Venetian sumptuary laws (laws regulating expenditure on luxuries) did not address the issue of exaggerated footwear until it reached dangerous proportions. It was once thought that very high chopines, twenty inches as seen in the example from the Museo Correr di Veneziani, were the accoutrements of the courtesan and were intended to establish her highly visible public profile. However, sixteenth-century accounts suggest that the chopine's height was associated with the level of nobility and grandeur of the Venetian woman who wore them rather than with any imputation as to her profession. '

El Nino Watch. 'This page presents images and news releases based on observations of the El Niño/La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S./French TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and other NASA/JPL satellites and instruments. '

Chushingura: Revenge of the 47 Samurai. Ukiyo-e. 'Many artists have produced sets of prints illustrating Chushingura. While the Spencer Museum of Art has some complete or near complete sets, this page shows a selection by various artists illustrating the eleven acts of the play.'

English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel, 1918.

Northumbrian Folk Tales. 'These stories come from North East England and although they have been passed from generation to generation in the oral tradition, I have written them down just in case they get lost and forgotten.'

Mie Kenritsu Hakubutsukan. Tokaido ukiyo-e prints. Text in Japanese - use BabelFish to translate.

Reagan Miniseries/CBS Black Eye Cartoons. 'Today we have a commentary by presidential son and Talk Radio star, Michael Reagan, along with visual comments from a dozen top cartoonists. '

Bush Watch.

The Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-71. 'This site contains links to over 1200 digitized photographs and images recorded during the Siege and Commune of Paris cir.1871. '

India: Photo-Poem Duets. "..Which is your leg? which mine?" Such a great collection ...

Brahmins at a Game of Cricket.

Baka Pygmies. Life, music and initiation in the Equatorial Forest.
'A people of hunters and gatherers, Baka pygmies live in the equatorial forest of Southeastern Cameroon together with various ethnic groups of bantu farmers, with whom they exchange goods and have a symbiotic relationship from time immemorial ... '

Hopi Basketry. 'Hopi basketmakers are some of the finest artists in this medium in North America. Today, while many Pueblo peoples no longer weave baskets, Hopi women continue a centuries-long tradition of basketry. They are also innovative artists, developing new methods and designs from traditional ones. Red, yellow, and black are the usual colors skillfully arranged to produce katsina, animal, blanket, and geometric designs. The natural colors of plant materials used to construct the baskets serve as a background for the designs, constrasting with the vivid colors of commercial dyes ... '

The Miracle Pepper. 'Incredible, bizarre coincidence, or a message of hope for humanity? '

Shaka Rising from the Gold Coffin. 'This scroll depicts the scene of the resurrection of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni as described in the Mahamaya Sutra. Hearing of his death, Sakyamuni's mother, Maya, rushed to him from the Trayastrimsa heaven. While Maya was crying and clutching his bowl and cane to her breast, Sakyamuni, by his divine power, opened the coffin, rose up and told her of the transiency of life. Then he lay down again in the coffin and closed the cover over himself ... '

Amida Coming over the Mountain. 'The popular, Kamakura Period painting theme of "Amida Coming over the Mountain," usually shows the central image of Amida facing forward with both hands held over his breast. This pattern can be seen in the Zenrinji and Konkaikomyoji "Amida Coming over the Mountain" scrolls ... '

Ribera: Saint Onuphrius.

Nanteuil: Portrait of a Nobleman.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Alabama. With gallery.

The Belmont Mansion, Tennessee. A place with an interesting history.

Tennessee State Museum. Lots to see here.

The Stupid Store. 'Stupid gifts for a stupid world'.

Constable: The Hay Wain.

Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the River.

Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.

The Navajo Creation Story.

The Bubble Nebula.

Molecular Cloud.

Livingstone says Bush is 'greatest threat to life on planet'. (Independent)
'Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, launched a stinging attack on President George Bush last night, denouncing him as the "greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen" ... '
'... Mr Livingstone recalled a visit at Easter to California, where he was denounced for an attack he had made on what he called "the most corrupt and racist American administration in over 80 years". He said: "Some US journalist came up to me and said: 'How can you say this about President Bush?' Well, I think what I said then was quite mild. I actually think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction." '
Via American Samizdat.

18th November
Question/request for plep readers...
A sociologist friend needs some input from people in London who may be living in 'loft-style' apartments. 'Loft-style', in this instance, means ontemporary (built in the 1990s and after) flats with open living space (not traditional separate dining room and separate kitchen, etc.). The developers and estate agents use the term 'loft-style' to attract customers. 'Loft' meaning conversion from industrial-use. Any input from anyone who may live in such a dwelling would be appreciated, and it would be by no means an onerous undertaking... just a few questions (and my friend is a charming and pleasant individual).
If you or anyone you know is willing to help, email me on nutcote at ... Thanks!

While we have your attention, Mr President... (Guardian) 'It's not often that we get the chance to speak directly to the most powerful man in the world. So as George Bush lands in Britain for his first state visit, we asked 60 Brits and Americans to make the most of it ... ' Some good bits here.

Images of Afghanistan, 1976-78.

Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War.

50 Doors of Paris. 'Parisians have been opening their city to visitors for hundreds of years, and their unique style, culture, and tastes are reflected in how they decorate their doors. Here are 50 examples.'

Photos of Nuba Wrestling.

Nuba Body Art.

Nuba Dance.

Prints by Hirosada. 'The first artist to reappear after reform, in early 1847, was Sadahiro. It appears that, probably out of fear of the censorship laws, Sadahiro chose to reverse the characters of his name and in 1847 called himself Hirosada ... '

Hilda. 'It's my pride and joy to introduce to you pin-up art's best kept secret--Hilda! We never even allowed this full-figured gorgeous mirth quake to become a footnote the in annals of American glam art. I'm here to hopefully change all that ... '

Streets of Rio during the World Cup. Photos. 'The biggest party in Brazil is not Carnaval, it's the World Cup. Carnaval is not celebrated by a good part of Brazilians, for whom it simply represents a time to relax for a three-day stretch during Lent. party in Brazil is not Carnaval, it's the World Cup. Carnaval is not celebrated by a good part of Brazilians, for whom it simply represents a time to relax for a three-day stretch during Lent ... '

The Ephemera Society of America. 'Ephemera is a term used to embrace a wide range of minor, everyday documents, most intended for one-time or short-term use, including broadsides and posters, baseball cards, tickets, bookmarks, photographs-and the list goes on. Collecting ephemera has been an ardent pursuit for centuries, In the Victorian era, especially, collecting trade cards, greeting cards, and chromolithographs for pasting into scrap albums was a popular pastime for both young and old. Today as in years past, items from earlier times that have somehow survived to delight, our eyes, feed our minds, and offer unique windows into our ancestors' lives interest us as collectors ... '

The Williamson Tunnels. 'Welcome to the fascinating world of the Williamson tunnels - a strange underground kingdom which has lain beneath the city of Liverpool in north-west England since the early 1800s ... '

Southwark Cathedral. Virtual tours of a fascinating place. 'Southwark Cathedral is situated on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge. It is surrounded by railway lines and buildings, including the historic Borough Market. The small churchyard on the south side of the Cathedral is a small oasis of calm and is a favourite lunch-time resting place for local office workers ... '

The Holyland in Belfast. 'If the Holy Land exists now it only exists in the imagination. I caught a glimpse of it, though, at five. In the Children's Bible. The three wise men in bright raiment on camels travelled under an aubergine-bluedark sky proliferate with stars like pommegranite seed. Later the Holy Land became language: the Garden of Eden, the Land of Canaan, Tigris and Euphrates, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold. Tabernacle. Cherubim. Matins and vespers. Supplication and prayer. These days the Holy Land is a fugitive scent. The kind of warm odour you catch when an aeroplane touches down at night near the Mediterranean: a sweet, musty odour of figs and the desert, cinnamon and dust. The Holy Land in Belfast exists only as a blasphemous prayer. It is maze of little Belfast streets behind Queen's University and beside the River Lagan. Jerusalem Street. Palestine Street. Damascus Street ... '

Tagore and His India. By Amartya Sen, Nobel economics laureate.
'Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941 at the age of eighty, is a towering figure in the millennium-old literature of Bengal. Anyone who becomes familiar with this large and flourishing tradition will be impressed by the power of Tagore's presence in Bangladesh and in India. His poetry as well as his novels, short stories, and essays are very widely read, and the songs he composed reverberate around the eastern part of India and throughout Bangladesh ... '

The Iranian: Photo of the Day. Images of Iranian life.

Casa Mila (La Pedrera). Architecture.

Vocal Vowels. 'Hollow plastic models of the human vocal tract turn the squawk of a duck call into vowel sounds.'

In and Around Thule, Greenland.

Tarantulas. National Geographic site.

17th November
The Many Faces of Lord Ganesh, by Shashi Tharoor.
'Ganesh, or Ganapathi as we prefer to call him in the South, sits impassively on my bedroom shelf, in multiple forms of statuary, stone, metal and papier miche. There is nothing incongruous about this; he is used to worse, appearing as he does on innumerable calendars, posters, trademarks and wedding invitation cards. Paunchy, full-bodied, long-trunked (though with one broken tusk), attired in whatever costume the artist fancies (from ascetic to astronaut), Ganesh, riding his way across Indian hearts on a rat, is arguably Hinduism's most popular divine figure.'
'Few auspicious occasions are embarked upon without first seeking Ganesh's blessing. His principal attribute in Hindu mythology - a quality that flows from both his wisdom and his strength - is as a remover of obstacles to the fulfilment of desires. No wonder everyone wants Ganesh on his side before launching any important project, from starting a factory to acquiring a wife. My own courtship violated time-honoured Indian rules about caste, language, region, age and parental approval; but when we got married, my wife and I had an embossed red Ganesh adorning the front of our wedding invitations ... '
'... In late September 1995, word spread around the world that statues of Ganesh had begun drinking milk. In some cases, statues of his divine parents, Shiva and Parvati, were also reported to be imbibing these liquid offerings, but Ganesh it was who took the elephant's share. Early on Thursday September 21, the rumours started in Delhi that the gods were drinking milk; it was said that an idol of Ganesh in a suburb of the capital had swallowed half a cup. Within hours, the frenzy had spread around the globe as reports came in of temples and private domestic shrines in places as far removed as Long Island and Hong Kong witnessing the same phenomenon. At the Vishwa temple in London's Indian-dominated Southall district, a 15-inch statue was said to be drinking hundreds of spoons of milk offerings; the august London Times reported on its front page that "in 24 hours 10,000 saw it drink". At the Geeta Bhavan temple in Manchester, prodigious quantities were ingested by a three-inch silver statue of Ganesh. Hard-bitten British tabloid journalists, looking for a fraud to debunk, filmed and photographed the phenomenon and professed themselves flabbergasted. "I gazed in awe," confessed the man from the Daily Star; his rival from the Sun "gawped in disbelief" ... '
Thanks, Dinesh!

Back home. The journey back took around 36 hours in the end. Will be back to normal in the next couple of days.

The trip was recorded at NePlep.

Some final thoughts :-

Chess is very popular in Nepal, and becoming more so, among young and old. You see people playing in cafes, on street corners. This is a good thing. Chess, of course, originated in South Asia.

Shopping for Buddhas. Extract from Jeff Greenwald's great book about his life in Nepal.
'Kathmandu's First Escalator'. 'The second mob waited at the escalator's summit, delighting in the huge joke of relative motion. These sophisticated voyeurs - many of them seasoned escalator veterans themselves - shouted with glee as each of the hapless riders was propelled, panicked and staggering, from the apparently motionless safety of the escalator onto the utterly unexpected menace presented by stable ground. '

Letter from a Lhasa Merchant to His Wife. Essential reading.
'A beautiful novel from Nepal, translated to English without missing any substance in all means.'
'The novel is introduced with the translator's special note. It is in the form of al letter a Newar merchant in Lhasa to his wife in Kathmandu. Its spiritual theme is that the letter didn't burn in the flame that consumed her remains.'

The political situation in Nepal is a big challenge. So take all this with a pinch of salt and as the observations of an outsider :-
After the democratisation of 1990, both leftwing and relatively conservative parties had a shot at government - possibly due to lack of experience, and clashes of personality, people have lost faith in the parties. Both the Maoists and the new king (after the massacre of the royal family) have turned this to their advantage, to push their own brands of absolutism, and real democracy is becoming increasingly marginalised. Even the parties' agitation (or 'stir') against the 'unified command' (read - militarised government) is the party leaders is not in doubt (many of them spent time in prison), but their ability to set aside their differences is.
The Nepali Times is the paper which does by far the best job of covering Nepalese politics and society.
Each society is different, but there may be lessons to be learned from Nepal for other parts of the world : democracy cannot be imposed until a country is ready for it (after all, it took Britain, France and America many centuries and much struggle to even start the process, which is still ongoing, uneven and fragile).
One must also be wary of outside powers - Are the US and UK trying to use Nepal to encircle China as part of the new doctrine of pre-emption? What is China's motivation (the Maoists claim to despise China for embracing capitalism, but then again the Maoists do a lot of decidedly un-socialist things themselves)? What about the Maoist connection to the much-feared Naxalites of India (particularly violent leftwing terrorists, influenced as much by Nietzsche as by Marx; their methods and ideology are quite similar to the Nepalese Maoists)?
Religion is an important component of the culture of most countries, but perhaps Nepal will be well on the road to development when the neediest do not feel the need to sacrifice goats at the Kali Temple when they could use them as food, or donate money that they really need themselves to temples for festivals. A recent report (covered in the Nepalese paper media) cited excessive spending on temples and religious festivals as one of many reasons for poverty and lack of development among Newars (so in this case, religion is quite literally the 'opium of the people'!).
' Sherpa who had worked on a trek with me had come to my hotel for his salary, and unwisely, I had paid him in view of the hotel staff. After he had gone, one of them had approached me; "Why do you give this man money? He is a dirty peasant. I am educated, give me some money also…" It is hard to explain to someone when logic goes that way. '
Mixing Maoism and tourism.

Normal blogging (and fewer of my no doubt somewhat poorly-formed opinions!) to resume soon!