AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  childhood

The Gardens Between: a unique puzzle game of childhood memories and friendship

This Australian production is a chill-out gem, almost worth having for its relaxing, meditative soundtrack alone.

A superior review to this one will be found here, or click any image for many links about the game.

Two best friends llive next door to each other. Sadly, they will be parted tomorrow, when one of them has to move away. They spend their last night together, wishing that they could somehow turn back time...

...and they discover that they can, at least in their imaginations. And that's what the game is about: controlling time.

The friends embark on a magical journey, visiting clusters of (usually three) islands, each island representing a level of the cluster's puzzle.

You can help them, but only by using three buttons: one advances time, one rewinds time, and the third causes something to happen. What you CAN'T do directly is control where the friends walk, which takes some getting used to!

The aim of each puzzle is simple: to reach the top of the island with a lit lantern. The lantern is lit by passing near a flower with a glowing white ball, and is extinguished by passing near a flower with a glowing black ball.

(Later in the game, you will encounter slabs of apparently solid mist. A lit lantern will dispel the mist, which is good if the mist is a barrier, but is bad if the mist forms a bridge that must be walked over!)

As time moves forwards or backwards, some other objects in the game move also, independently of the children. Flowers can open and close and the colour of their glowing ball can change.

Some of these objects are purple “buddy-boxes” in which a lantern can be placed or retrieved (lit or unlit) which follow their own trajectories around the island. If the trajectory of a buddy-box carrying a lantern passes near one of those glowing balls, then the lantern will be lit or extinguished accordingly.

What makes the game interesting is that the boy has special opportunities to stop time for the two friends, but allow time to go forwards or backwards for the other moving objects. Later in the game, when the islands and puzzles become more complicated, this can require some serious lateral thinking in order to make progress.

The path up the hill is inaccessible here - an example of where lateral thinking will be required!

As the game progresses, the islands become larger and more complicated. Some of the puzzles are very tricky indeed, especially when advancing or rewinding time very slowly at critical points allows things to happen that otherwise wouldn't.

My only disappointment with this wonderful little game is that it takes only a few hours to play, which makes it a somewhat expensive for what it is. But any bright children you know will have great fun playing it, too (not to mention other adults).

If you like this...

[FAR Lone Sails - an atmospheric vehicle adventure game]
[Dear Esther - a unique exploration of a Hebridean island]
[Other Places - videos by Andy Kelly exploring the tranquil beauty of game landscapes without violence or stress]
[Non-violent problem-solving adventure games (from my web site)]

Of all the works by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbour Totoro is undoubtedly the most loved. Children who grew up with it remember it as one of their favourite movies, and many love it even more as adults.

I never saw it as a child (I was a grown-up in 1988), but it is certainly now one of my all-time favourite movies. It's a gentle story of childhood joys and fears that celebrates kindness, a close relationship with Nature and (as one expects from Miyazaki) the Japanese tradition of respect for one's elders.

I recently had the pleasure of introducing it to my 7-year old granddaughter (not that I need an excuse to watch it), and was struck by what a wonderful antidote it is to the poisonous spirit emanating from the current US President.

I also recently discovered a marvellous retrospective of this great movie. I recommend clicking either image above to read it (the second image is actually my own screenshot). If you do, don't miss its link to an all-but-forgotten classic Disney animation called The Old Mill.

If you like this...

[The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli]

Jessie Willcox Smith - Vintage Book Illustrations

“I Love My Little Cat”

(click the image for I AM A CHILD - children in art history, a wonderful art resource for childhood)

“The Seven Ages of Childhood:
5. Then the Scholar, With Eyes Severe and Hair of Formal Cut”

(click the image to read a scanned online copy of the original vintage book!)

Jessie Willcox Smith, according to Wikipedia, “was a prominent female illustrator in the United States during the Golden Age of American illustration and ‘one of the greatest pure illustrators’”.

Thanks to Gatorindo (David) and ensemble5 for these!

If you like this...

[Try clicking the childhood tag - just a suggestion!]

“Fleya & Poppy (night version)


Nice images © by the Polish photographer Adam Wawrzyniak (my favourite of his is still Girls Waiting for a Train)

“Summer’s End” by Marci Oleszkiewicz - thanks yet again, Jerry!

© Mary Engelbreit Enterprises, Inc.

Mary Engelbreit is a graphic artist and children's book illustrator who launched her own magazine, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion in 1996. She writes:

“This is a variation of a card I did years ago for the St. Louis Art Museum. It featured a bench that is in the museum's fabulous collection (although I embellished this one a little!)”

Another great share by Sandy (overthetrail) (Sandy is nowadays mostly on Facebook, but click her tag for many more nice things that I have snaffled from her).

“Little Girl at the Aquarium” by Royce Hutain (aka Visual Burrito)

Royce Hutain is also the guy who makes those neat LED “Glowy Zoey” stick figure costumes that glow in the dark. If you want to have some fun at night with your kids, check them out!

I found this here on the very nice pages of Reflections, a visit to which is highly recommended.


“Little Fishes”

From “Slater's Sussex, the colour woodcuts of Eric Slater” by James Trollope, the first study of a British colour woodcut artist since Malcolm Salaman's William Giles as far back as 1928.

If you like violin music, you will really enjoy the virtuoso performance of 11-year-old Sirena Huang from Connecticut, which ranges from classical to folk tunes. However, don't miss Sirena's charming short interlude talks, which start about 9 minutes and 16½ minutes in. Enjoy!

“Swan Lake”, a lovely image by Elena Shovkoplyas, whose other work is well worth exploring

27 Kids reading “Little Humans” by Brandon Stanton (warning: it may crack you up)

Thanks again to my friend overthetrail (Sandy) for this one! (She hasn't posted here much for a while, but click her overthetrail tag to see some really nice stuff that she has sent my way over the years.)

“The other love of my life”, a beautiful portrait © by our very own 007Sue (Susan Brett)

007sue writes:

“A great pastime... drew my little granddaughter while I was laid up in bed with flu... sort of LOL”...

Sue has many talents - check out her photography also!

From the page:

If you're a Miyazaki fan, click the image below to see all the artist's work full size (and see how many details you recognize)... and please visit batchbatcharak, from whose fine pages this comes!

If you like this...

[Japanese animation at its finest: the master-works of Hayao Miyazaki]
[The painting "Ship Flying Over The Rainbow" from "Kiki's Delivery Service"]
[Joe Hisaishi plays his piano music from "Spirited Away"]

and maybe also...

[Beautiful stained glass by Rober Oddy]

From a Facebook post by Garage Sale, and many similar posts going right back to 2000 and maybe earlier (you'd think we would have learnt something by now!):

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL BORN IN 1930's, 1940's, 50's, 60's, 70's and Early 80's!!!

First, you survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, your baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. You had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when you rode your bikes, you had no helmets, not to mention the risks you took hitchhiking...

As children, you would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a van - loose - was always great fun. You drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle. You shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

You ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but you weren't overweight because...... YOU WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! You would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach you all day. And you were OK.

You would spend hours building your go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out you forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, you learned to solve the problem.

You did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........YOU HAD FRIENDS and you went outside and found them!

You fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. You played with worms (well most boys did) and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although you were told it would happen, you did not poke out any eyes. You rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing you out if you broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. You had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and you learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

"Dog Heart" (probably not a good translation) by Elena Shovkoplyas, whose other work is well worth looking at

I have seen this wonderful picture before, but unfortunately only in posts that were linked to the original image (which doesn't identify the author), rather than being linked to the web page containing the image (which does identify the author). It took me several hours to track down the photographer, using every search technique I could think of.

Eventually, by going through page after page of Children's World, one of my favourite categories on, I came across a photo that seemed to have the same style as the one I was looking for. Unlike many previous such guesses, I was lucky this time!

The time wasn't wasted - I came across a lot of other good stuff in the search, not least all the other good work that Elena Shovkoplyas has done.

(BTW, if you didn't know already: the Chrome browser is great for viewing pages in foreign languages, since it has an automatic translation facility.)

While walking through Washington Dulles Airport recently, I passed this arresting poster from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I notice the obesity problem particularly when visiting America, but it's getting to be a real problem here in the UK too. Many of our kids (and adults) spend too much time in the virtual world, and not enough in the real world. Also, the media's ability to show us every scary thing happening to children, however far removed from where we live, is making us over-protective, depriving them of a healthy exposure to the adventures of the outdoors.

Many organisations recognize and try to tackle this problem, and on a recent visit to a National Trust property (see my previous post) I was really pleased to see the National Trust doing their bit.

Here's a great check list from their "50 Things" web site (how many of these things do our kids do now?):

Prize-winning illustration by the Korean illustrator Jae-Hong Kim, whose other work is well worth checking out

Original illustration by E.H. Shepard for the chapter in Winnie-the-Pooh "In which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water"
...a feeling known to all too many people in the UK this year!

Two samples from the post Rainy Day Kids, from Shelley Davies & Julie Fortenberry's wonderful blog Children's Illustration, a treasure trove for those who love the magical ways in which children see the world.

If you like this...

[Try clicking some of the tags at the top of this post!]

Bhutan girls - click the image to read an extraordinarily fine article in a very fine blog

Quietly, one small step at a time, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and the vision and common sense of its Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley in particular, is influencing the way that governments across the world try to bring about "progress".

In Bhutan, after many years of developing the ideas, the materialistic measure of GDP is being extended to a measure called GNH, or Gross National Happiness.

The problem with the word "happiness" is that it suggests that GNH is about some Utopian, flower-power dream. As conceived by Jigme Thinley, nothing could be further from the case. Time Magazine reports that after many years of work, researchers in Bhutan refined the original GNH concept into nine equally-weighted components: Psychological well-being, Health, Time use, Education, Cultural diversity and resilience, Good governance, Community vitality, Ecological diversity and resilience, and Living standards. A very detailed survey established a GNH baseline in Bhutan, a number whose absolute value doesn't matter (it was about 74% of a theoretical maximum), but whose changes can be monitored and tracked.

The important thing in Bhutan is that every government policy decision will be run through a GNH filter - and that is the key idea which is spreading, in a variety of forms to suit individual countries.

If you are interested in how this is happening, check out (for example) the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the London-based Economic Foundation's Centre for Wellbeing, and many more examples here.

Although nothing is likely to happen in Washington D.C. until more people in the USA's political system become less interested in partisan dogma, some individual U.S. states are going ahead strongly (e.g. Vermont's Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI).

Since presumably even Ebenezer Scrooge was happy in his own way, not everyone's idea of happiness is the same. There is a fascinating web site called The OECD Better Life Index which lets you see how different countries rate against each other on a number of measures of well-being. Initially these measures are equally weighted, but you can change the weighting according to your own ideas of what's important.

If you don't follow any other link, may I strongly recommend this article, and the fine blog from which it comes. And thanks to the paper edition of Time Magazine for many of the links included here.

As a footnote... however you measure it, the UK became an obviously happier place this summer, with a community spirit and a sense of achievement that has not been felt for a long time. The reason for this was the events leading up to, around and through the London Olympics (my posts on which are here), followed by the equally wonderful London Paralympics (my posts on which are here).

If you like this...

[More links on how Bhutan is affecting the world
[World Happiness Report]

A fragment of a rather wonderful embroidered bookmark created by Sonya Walker

Click the image to see the whole thing, which includes a quote from Dr. Seuss' book "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut"

Ripping Things to Do is a simply wonderful book (another recommendation from my younger daughter - her previous suggestion is here). It is several things at once: an anthology of classic children's books (English, American and Swedish), a treasure trove of ideas and resources for children's activities based on those books, a nostalgia trip for parents who can remember the days before computer games, and more.

I can also highly recommend this review of the book. It comes from a very nice blogger (as does the above image), and can't possibly add anything to it - except to say that the book is aimed at parents of both boys and girls.

Full Oscar-nominated 6-minute short film of 'Granny O'Grimm', directed by Nicky Phelan, produced by Brown Bag Films, and written/voiced by Kathleen O'Rourke (more on the film and its makers here)

A great share by my friend MadMadamMim (Dunja), a visit to whose pages is highly recommended.

A charming musical version of A.A. Milne's poem from Now We Are Six by singer-songwriter Melanie Safka,
sent to me by my friend Gatorindo (David)

If you like this...

[The Hoose at Pooh's Neuk]

Some wonderful child portraits © by the Bulgarian amateur photographer Slavina Bahchevanova, whom I found on the always-beautiful pages of Cyrion

If you like this, you might also like these photographers...

[Tanya Gramatikova]
[Vladimir Kutchinski]
[Lyubov Pimenova]

...and my childhood tag

"Boltenharrers laboratory"

"Flying Rigmor"

"Rogerson and the Diving Bell"

A small sample of the wonderful work by Swedish illustrator Alexander Jansson

I found this artist on the pages of my friend Borderline, who has recently updated her really useful Categorian help information - don't miss it!

This lovely young Italian girl was photographed by my sister-in-law while on a boat trip on Lake Garda, Italy.
My sister-in-law and her husband were staying at Sirmione, for reasons that my Sirmione Photoblog should make clear!

"Sweet Halloween Dreams", a.k.a. "Why a child NEEDS to sleep with a teddy-bear", a wonderful fantasy by begemott

Found on MadMadamMim (Dunja)'s fine pages (and also sent to me by several friends, who obviously know my sense of humour!)

If you like this...

["The Exchange of Flowers", by the same artist]

"Happy Kids", a picture to improve anyone's day, by the Russian travel photographer Dmitry Vashchenko

"Meeting Place" by the Indonesian artist Tessar Lo, now living in Canada (and see more of him here)

One of many great things to be found on holyfingers (Nick)'s fine pages. Nick posts relatively infrequently (he goes for quality not quantity), but has great art on his site - don't miss it!

I am pleased to say that Nick has moved to Tumblr, and can be found here.

A very nice coloured version of his drawing by begemott

(who also produced the amazingly popular Sweet Halloween Dreams, or why a child needs to sleep with a teddy bear)

"Like Summer", a particularly fine example of animation art by the Portuguese CG artist and video game creator Luis Melo

"Club Penguin" by the Canadian artist Mark Heine (really needs to be seen full size)

"Courageous" by the Danish graphic designer Jonas Ranum Brand - gratefully snaffled from my friend Chaotiqual, whom I am delighted to say is now here on Categorian

(Original post: March 5th, 2011)

The Open Library is a great site for book lovers.

From the page:

One web page for every book ever published. It's a lofty but achievable goal.

To build Open Library, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and lots of people who are willing to contribute their time and effort to building the site.

To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.

Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your contribution. Whether you fix a typo, add a book, or write a widget--it's all welcome. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can't do it alone!

I came across it when my daughter was given a beautiful copy of "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson (the facsimile edition), for our granddaughter (who is not able to read it for herself just yet).

The book is generally regarded as one of the greatest recollections of childhood in verse.

If you have read it, you may remember closing it on this last poem:

"LeS LiOnNeS eN cAgE" by the French street artist Liliwenn, on the wall of the Leake Street Tunnel in London,
famous as a semi-official graffiti showcase

[The artist at work in Paris]
["Escape" - more delightful street art by Zach Blume]

"Juliana" by the Russian photographer Ludmila (plenAIR), whose other work is well worth checking out

"Margot 2", one of many beautiful and striking portraits by Tanya Gramatikova, one of my favourite photographers

Where The Wild Things Are (Movie)
(Original post: September 14th, 2010)

I recently watched the DVD of this movie, adapted by Spike Jonze from the great book by Maurice Sendak.

Where The Wild Things Are is not a Muppet Movie, even though Jim Henson's Creature Shop contributed to it (and Maurice Sendak had a considerable influence on Jim Henson). The movie is a unique work celebrating the fears, delights and imagination of childhood, with an atmosphere all of its own. The seamlessly-combined types of special effects used to create it are truly wonderful, but are quite secondary to the artistic skills that make the movie what it is.

From Wikipedia on the book:

According to Sendak, at first the book was banned in libraries and received negative reviews. It took about two years for librarians and teachers to realize that children were flocking to the book, checking it out over and over again, and for critics to relax their views...

and on the movie:

There were fears, expressed by production company Warner Bros., that the film was not family friendly and may frighten children; however these fears were not shared by either Jonze or Sendak, and Jonze refused to compromise. Maurice Sendak said after having seen a completed cut of the film, "I've never seen a movie that looked or felt like this. And it's [Spike Jonze's] personal 'this.'"

If you have read the book and/or seen the movie, then you may wonder what kind of tea some child "experts", critics and movie moguls smoke in their spare time.

Thanks again to my younger daughter for recommending this one...

If you like this...

[My movies page]
[My books page]

(Original post: August 25th, 2010)

"Catching The Rain" by Steve Hanks

This is for my dear friend Chaotiqual, hoping that the rain stops soon

"Ivet" by Tanya Gramatikova, one of my favourite photographers

Tanya has taken many pictures of this beautiful young model, who reminds me strongly of the young Scarlett Johansson (see my next post above)

[If you like this photographer, click her tag at the top of this post for more in this blog.]

"May I Have One Too" by Emile Munier (1840-1895), a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau

"Calinerie" [A Little Coaxing] by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

Thanks to Njoistumblin for finding these for me!

"Reading in the park", from a new study into the learning benefits of green school settings

The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) is a multidisciplinary research laboratory at the University of Illinois, dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health.

I really believe in this kind of stuff - if you're interested, see the links below for why.

From my web site...

[It's not easy being green... Actually, it is]
[A philosophy for life: Pay It Forward]

[More of my life improvement favourites]

"Imagination" by syncaidia, a great image of childhood and the joys of reading

Thanks to my friend Alison for tracking down the artist for me!

If you like this...

[My books page]

If the rules of Desert Island Discs were changed to allow a DVD player and just one DVD to take to the island, then in my case that one DVD might be "Kiki's Delivery Service", by the Japanese master of animation Hayao Miyazaki.

If you have seen it then you may remember the beautiful painting that Kiki's friend Ursula is working on in her cabin in the woods. The painting, called "Ship Flying Over the Rainbow", was actually the work of students of Hachinohe City Minato Junior High School Handicapped Children's Class, and what you see in the animation is a still photo of the painting by Junichi Ochiai.

I haven't been able to find a copy of this painting online, so I took these screenshots from my copy of the DVD:

One reason that I like "Kiki" so much is the beautiful landscape and town that Miyazaki (a person with great respect for the environment) conjures up. I would love to live in that bakery by the sea.

I have always wondered what blend of real places contributed to Miyazaki's vision, and recently discovered the answer here (along with many other interesting facts about the movie).

If you like this...

[Joe Hisaishi plays his piano music from "Spirited Away"]
[Japanese animation at its finest: the master-works of Hayao Miyazaki]

One of my favourite tags...


"Winter Light" by Linda Ronstadt

"Winter Light" by Linda Ronstadt

This was a nice video of a beautiful song from the end-credits of Agnieszka Holland's film of Frances Hodgson Burnett's book The Secret Garden. The original has gone, but if you click the image you can select a different video with the same track.

I can remember only two film adaptations of classic children's books that (IMO) are virtually perfect. Agnieska Holland's film of The Secret Garden is one, and Lionel Jeffries' film of Edith Nesbit's book The Railway Children is the other. If you know of more, please let me know!

If you liked this...

[Wikipedia's list of classic children's books]
[My books page]

"Rocking horse logic" - pencils, acrylics, Photoshop

"Cross bones style" - photomanipulation, Photoshop

Very imaginative artwork © by Sara Vandermeulen - thanks to tonesofhome for leading me to these.

"Gone Fishing" by ~eapcat
Found on the always delightful pages of my friend chaotiqual

BTW: if you like this picture, try clicking a tag at the top of this post.

A beautiful picture of a child, by Dani Brubaker - found on the always-beautiful pages of expressioniste

I love this wonderful fantasy by the Turkish artist Yusuf Artun.

When I saw it I was strongly reminded of a production of Rimsky Korsakov's little-known opera Chrismas Eve that I once saw in London. It had a wonderful Russian fairy-tale atmosphere to it. The proscenium arching over the stage had old houses set at odd angles - almost like a rainbow of houses - their windows glowing with light or opening to show villagers leaning out to watch the proceedings below.

Many children came to watch it, and for them it must have been a truly magical experience, the kind that stays with you for your whole life, especially as the cast (in full costume and character) mingled with the audience before and after the show and in the intervals, particularly to meet the children.

Even for an adult it had a very magical quality. I keep hoping that one day it will reappear somewhere that I can see it again.

"Twilight" by Jimmy Lawlor, beautifully capturing the magic of childhood

If you like this...

[Tatik - images of childhood]

This is one of my favourite photos!

I have seen it many times, but now I know who the author is: it's an untitled picture by Vladimir Kutchinsky

"Ivet", one of many beautiful and striking portraits by Tanya Gramatikova, one of my favourite photographers

Shel's official site for kids is an absolute joy, beautifully designed and full of brilliant animation and humour. I suspect that many adults (especially parents and teachers) will enjoy it as much as I did - and children will absolutely love it.

I haven't read Shel Silverstein for a very long time; when I went hunting for his work on the web I was reminded of what great stuff I had been missing.

I found this poem on the wonderful pages of my friend succes (Rita/Renée), now tragically passed away. Her pages are all that many Stumblers and ex-Stumblers have left of her; if you are reading this before October 24th 2011 (when SU destroys all blogs with images, colours and links) then you may want to save at least some of her pages as a keepsake (see here).

[More Shel Silverstein links]
[My books page]

"Morning light" - watercolor painting of a lighthouse in Twin Lights Park, near Portland, Maine

"Beach path" - watercolor painting of a beach scene in Maine

"Miss Marie" - candid photo of the artist's daughter on a school trip

Some very nice work by Lora Garcelon. I love the colours!

[An introduction to RedBubble]

"Bonded", one of many beautiful works by the digital/fantasy artist Ivy Izzard

Found at RedBubble, one of my favourite sites

"Sea Song", by Craig Esterhuizen

This photo captures that sense of wonder that we sometimes lose when we grow older...

"Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose", a painting by John Singer Sargent with a wonderfully luminous quality.

"Blue Delphiniums" by Alexi Zaitsev

"Indian Summer" by Alexi Zaitsev

Summer can seem like a long way away... but not when I look at these beautiful paintings.

A very happy picture, author unfortunately unknown!

Thanks to my friend Bill for this one.

"Leaping to the high, wild mountain", by children's illustrator Jackie Morris.

(The BBC have recently produced a wonderful "Natural World" documentary on the snow leopard, one of the most beautiful (and rare) animals on the planet... more details here, and an update here.)

An untitled portrait of a child by Russian photographer Yuri Bonder. I love the eyes!

This is a delightful site dedicated to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, director of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, one of the finest animated movies ever made.

Sometimes when the weather is lousy or everything seems miserable, a reminder that life can be good, after all, is very welcome.

Several movies by Miyazaki definitely provide such a reminder; one of my favourites in this category is Kiki's Delivery Service, which is worth watching just for the artwork of the beautiful Scandinavian-style landscape and town, a miracle of loving creative genius - but there is a lot more to it than that. This is animation at its finest (no still images can convey how good it is), and one of my all-time favourite movies. (The version I have is in Japanese, with English subtitles, which I generally prefer.)

My Neighbour Totoro is an enchanting story about children encountering the spirit of the forest when they move to a country home. Miyazaki's portrayal of the beautiful countryside in wind, sun and rain is a joy to watch, and is an artistic achievement in its own right.

Another great favourite of mine is Whisper of the Heart. A coming-of-age story set in a modern city, Miyazaki leads his heroine on a journey that becomes more and more magical at it progresses - not, in this case, the magic of myths or legends, but a way of seeing the real world through the eyes of a young teenager that becomes a true voyage of enchantment.

If you like this...

[My movies page]

The old sun sighs and slips away
And night creeps over the everyday
And sleepy children climb the stairs
Cuddling toys and teddy bears
The endless boxes grown-ups made
For packing people neat and tight
Melt into twinkling rivulets of light
And gulfs of soft, mysterious shade

Then small bold spirits rise and fly
In the evening air of a different sky

(One of the few poems that I ever wrote, a long, long, long time ago)


Untitled (from "Kids")

Two wonderful photos from Indonesia by Rarindra Prakarsa.




Just a few of many great photos of the Maldives by Ahmed Zahid.

Thanks to bilkb for this one!

"Childhood" - another of my favourite pictures by Tanya Gramatikova.

There are stories here...