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Mission Galapagos

Liz Bonnin in the superb BBC 3-part series Galapagos, a beautiful and informative documentary

Mission Galapagos was a high-tech science expedition to examine what the Galapagos Islands can tell us about evolution and the effect of climate change on wildlife.

The islands, located in the Pacific about 1000km west of Ecuador, are not a place for Creationists to think about (doing so would fry their brains).

One of many things we learn is how the islands were formed (and are still being formed), how long this has taken, and why they are so different from each other.

It turns out that the islands sit on the Nazca tectonic plate that acts like a conveyor belt, trundling very slowly eastwards (at around 58km per million years), passing over a magma hot-spot below. This hot-spot constantly generates new volcanos as the plate moves eastwards, which rise above sea level to become new islands. Eventually the volcanic islands leave the hot-spot and cool so that they develop lush vegetation, and finally disappear underwater again (as the plate slides downward beneath the South America Plate) to become submerged mountains.


The Mission Galapagos science team visit one of the most awesome and dangerous dive spots in the world...


...Darwin's Arch, where scuba divers must descend quickly through strong currents to the relative safety of the rocky sea bed (click either image above for photo source)...


...and where hammerhead sharks (globally endangered) congregate in vast numbers for a mating ritual
(photo by Simon J Pierce, click image for photo source)


Among many other animals investigated was the astonishing marine iguana, living above and below water,
which has evolved so that the same animal can shorten its length in hard times
(Click the image for photo source and to read more about the expedition.)

There was much to enjoy in this documentary, whether above ground, underground or underwater. Some people, sadly, may never get to see it. American networks were very reluctant to show the final episode of Sir David Attenborough's Frozen Planet, because it showed "controversial" evidence of the effect of climate change at the Poles. What Bible Belt America and Trump America will make of Mission Galapagos, should they get to see it, is anyone's guess.

It is not only in America that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is under threat. There have recently been massive worldwide “Marches for Science”, protesting against “a global political assault on facts”. Anyone who doubts the significance of this is invited to peruse my Trump Diaries.

Liz Bonnin is one of my personal heroes in what is genuinely a fight against the forces of darkness. Her scientific background (she is a biochemist and Wild Animal Biologist, among other things) and her personality make her a very effective ambassador for STEM.

In the UK, as elsewhere, it was realized some time ago that disrespect for STEM would cost the country dear if not reversed. One of the first shots in achieving that was the successful BBC Series Bang Goes The Theory, where I first saw Liz in action.

Now young people (and especially girls) are being actively encouraged to take an interest in STEM.

Sadly, the USA is cursed with an anti-science (and anti-reality) President who seems bent on undermining the US's science and technology base, with untold consequences - but that's another story.


If you like this...

[My environment and technology page]


Dear Esther

Last month I also spent some time here, on a wild Hebridean island.

Dear Esther is called a computer game, or sometimes a “walking simulator”, only because there isn't another way to categorize it. Your only objective is to explore the island, while the mystery of a past tragedy unfolds - an unlikely source of enjoyment, you might think.

The island itself is a true work of art, a vast environment that has to be experienced through the “game” (including its atmospheric soundtrack) to be appreciated. Among many extraordinary details, the sparse foliage is stirred by the wind that blows constantly (and blows harder as you climb upwards).

You can - and should - explore everywhere that isn't too steep. You can leave the paths (such as they are) and walk across open terrain, or the rocks of a stream bed, or enter water (salt or fresh) and try swimming. A flashing beacon on the highest point of the island, visible from many places, provides some orientation and a kind of goal.

Your exploration will fall into 4 sequential segments, or chapters. You can (and will probably want to) re-enter the exploration at the start of any segment you have been in before, or at the last point that you saved.

My screenshot above is taken close to the end of the second segment. If you are brave enough (you think I'm kidding?) to follow the path that eventually reaches the bottom of the chasm in front of you, you have a chance of entering the third segment - for which I am deliberately not providing screenshots.

The following are some of my screenshots from the last segment:




If you click any of these screenshots then you will find out a lot more about the game. The principal genius behind it is Robert Briscoe (a link worth following if you're interested in the technology).

If you play the game then you may be surprised by the apparent lack of controls or guidance information. If so, you might find this helpful.

And finally, if you haven't met Steam before, it's a good way to buy and share computer games without physical media, much as streamed and downloaded video is gradually replacing DVDs. Having bought this game through Steam, I can download and play games for free from the Steam libraries of my American family, providing that the purchaser isn't playing any of their own games at the same time - but the sharing mechanism (intended originally for families with separate computers) is somewhat tricky and counter-intuitive to set up.

If you like this...

[PC's most relaxing games - PC Gamer]



© Lia Melia

Click either image above to see more of Lia Melia's Ocean Waves paintings

Thanks again to regtf1948 for this great find!



I greatly enjoyed Minions... and hearing words apparently from a number of languages, including Japanese and Spanish, that form the strangely comprehensible gibberish of “Minionese”.

I didn't realise, though, quite how many languages that French director Pierre Coffin actually plundered (and voiced) for his “Minionese”. Click the image above if you would like to know more!

Constructing realistic languages for books and films, on the other hand, seems to me to be an awesome task. The supreme example of this must surely be J.R.R. Tolkien's Elvish languages (among others) that underpin The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings - a massive work of scholarship, love and time.

(Click the image to the right for an in-depth article.)

Tolkien, it is said, wanted to write The Lord of the Rings entirely in Elvish, but (fortunately for us) was persuaded that the result would not be saleable...

I was very grateful to Peter Jackson's team for letting us hear these beautiful languages (both Quenya and Sindarin) in the screen version of The Lord of the Rings.

The next most impressive example of such a language (corrections gratefully received!) must be Klingon, originally created as a basic sound and a few words by James “Scotty” Doohan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but developed considerably thereafter - much further than I had imagined.

Like Star Trek itself, Klingon has found its way into all kinds of other popular culture (e.g. it appears several times in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). However, I had no idea how far it had spread - if you're interested, take a look here.

Along with many people, I enjoyed the remark from High Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, who said, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

Also like many other people (I suspect), I hadn't realised that you can read him in the original Klingon - it's a real book called The Klingon Hamlet. It is written with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but it represents a considerable tribute to the development of the language. There's also Much Ado About Nothing: The Restored Klingon Version. Check them out!

Constructed languages, it seems, can take on a life of their own...

At a much earlier stage of development than Klingon, but obviously gaining momentum, is Na'vi, the constructed language of the sapient inhabitants of the planet Pandora in the film Avatar.

Unlike Klingon, Na'vi is intended to be only a spoken language, passed down orally from one generation to the next. Nevertheless there is a growing community interested in learning it - a strange phenomenon, but perhaps a tribute to the work that went into its construction (and is still ongoing), and to the film itself.

In following these links I came across an amazing resource:

for both real and constructed languages. You can delve there into the various varieties of Chinese, for example, and also into Klingon.

Which shows that you never know where a trip to the cinema is going to lead you...


The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

I am a long time fan of Studio Ghibli, and I still consider Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away to be the finest animation ever made (a close runner-up being The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet).

One reason that I am a fan is the beautiful environments (often urban) created in many of their films. These are works of art in their own right, and I have done my best to capture (with my own screenshots) some of the ones that I particularly like.

In order to keep this post a reasonable length, and because the art in many of the films can only be appreciated in animated form, I have chosen only three films (omitting, for example, the beautiful natural environment of My Neighbour Totoro along with many others). Click any image if you would like to see links about that film.


Kiki's Delivery Service

This charming story about the early difficulties of a trainee witch, based on a children's fantasy novel, would be worth watching just for the artwork of the beautiful Scandinavian-style landscape and city. When the weather is lousy or everything seems miserable, I watch this film again, thinking how much I would like to live here - and how much designers of modern architecture could learn from the film.

Kiki standing outside the bakery, overlooking the sea. Behind her is a glimpse of the lower part of the fictional city. The (apparently hand-painted) details of mortar, stones, plaster, tiles and so much else is incredible - the more you look, the more you see. As with so many of Miyazaki's urban environments, it is set on a hill, giving it added interest as a place and a wonderful three-dimensional feel as art.

The fictional city is “Koriko” or “Coriko”, although the characters don't mention it. Miyazaki's inspiration for it was the town of Visby on the island of Gotland, Sweden (worth looking at), although the fictional Koriko is a much larger place.

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.)


The bakery, with another glimpse of Koriko rising above it, lit (as often in Miyazaki's films) by a low sun. The room at the top of the stairs is a kind of storage loft, which Kiki can use free as her room (and have free use of the telephone for her delivery business) in exchange for helping out at the bakery.


The view from Kiki's room, as evening falls.


The bakery at night.

The Wind Rises

This is to be the last of Miyazaki's films (see here), and in many ways is very different from the others. A very good description of it can be found here.

It is a fictionalized version of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi fighters that flew in WWII. It features many things: the love and mystique of aviation (and a repugnance for its use in war) that is Miyazaki's own, a stunning sequence covering the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, 7.9 on the Richter scale, that devastated Tokyo and the surrounding area, and a bittersweet story concerning his love for Nahoko, a girl whom he rescues during the earthquake and then doesn't see again for some time.

The story is fascinating from a historical point of view, but it also features some fine art work that somehow makes even factories and aircraft hangars things of beauty. I have selected just a few here.

A train journey during a period of tranquillity. Jiro is on his way to a hotel where he will again encounter Nahoko. Trains, and other means of transport, feature in many of Miyazaki's films with an extraordinary attention to realistic detail. (In Kiki's Delivery Service, when looking through the front window of an old-fashioned bus about to depart, we can see its nose rise as it is lifted by the torque of the engine, before setting off - a detail most people wouldn't even care about, or notice.)


The outfall from a beautiful spring pool, near the hotel where he encounters Nahoko.


Walking back to the hotel, caught in a sudden rain squall. Wind, rain and clouds are often major features of Miyazaki's films.


The hotel where Nahoko and Jiro meet.


Nahoko sadly dies of tuberculosis. They marry so that they can live together for the short time left, but Nahoko disappears one day, returning to the sanatorium so that he will remember her as she was. Together with other patients, she lies (well bundled up) on the verandah of the sanatorium, and in this beautiful short sequence she looks up at the sky as snow falls.

Whisper of the Heart

This is another great favourite of mine. It's a coming-of-age story set in modern Tokyo. Its heroine Shizuku is led 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.

The film was written by Miyazaki but directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whom Miyazaki hoped would take over from him. Kondo's premature death shortly afterwards, apparently caused by overwork, seems to have led Miyazaki to announce his retirement, although (fortunately for us) he continued to work for a further 15 years but at a more relaxed pace.


The apartment block where Shizuku lives is far from luxurious...


The door is metal and the interior is very small and cluttered. Nevertheless Shizuku's family lives happily there, and apart from the expected occasional friction with Shizuku's older sister, is very supportive of her.

Shizuku's life is one of an ordinary young teenager. She attends a local school, remarkable only for the respect that Miyazaki always shows being given by children to their elders and teachers. Shizuku writes two translated versions of John Denver's “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (hilarious when translated back to English in subtitles) - she doesn't really understand the concept of a “home town”, and her second version is entitled “Take Me Home, Concrete Roads”.

Shizuku is a voracious reader, borrowing books from the library, and keeps encountering the name of a previous borrower, Seiji Amasawa. She encounters Seiji several times without realizing who he is, and is extremely cross when he teases her. But things will change...


One day when Shizuku travels on the local train, she is joined by an unusually independent cat. When they get off together she follows him...


...losing him...


...but discovering him again higher up the hill.


The cat leads her up a steep, narrow rubbish-strewn alley.


(Monitor test: you should be able to see considerable detail even on plain concrete walls.)


Shizuku emerges into what, to her, is a different world...


...and discovers an open, and apparently deserted, antique shop...


...in which she will discover Seiji's grandfather, and learn that Seiji himself lives downstairs, learning to be a violin maker.

Here she also meets The Baron, an amazing statuette with crystal eyes, whose story links to an unfulfilled love in the grandfather's past life.


Seiji's grandfather shows her a marvellous clock that he is repairing, whose mechanisms include another depiction of unfulfilled love.



Shizuku later meets Seiji here, and learns that he hopes to leave schooling early for a career making violins - but first he will have to prove himself by becoming an apprentice to a strict violin-making master in Cremona, Italy.


Shizuku realises how much she will miss him, and decides to challenge herself while he is away by writing a long story, which she calls Whisper of the Heart, inspired by the story of The Baron.


Seiji's grandfather wants to be the first to read her story, and Shizuku waits for hours on his lower verandah while he does so, in an agony of suspense. He finally appears and tells her that her story is a little rough, like any craftsman's first work, but she has dug out some real gems from her heart - and makes the hugely relieved Shizuku a supper of Ramen noodles.


Early one cold morning Seiji returns, and calls to Shizuku to come down.


He takes her high up to one of his favourite places...


...to watch a magical sunrise above Tokyo




If you like this...

[Wingsee, a delightful site dedicated to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki]
[The painting "Ship Flying Over The Rainbow" from "Kiki's Delivery Service"]
[Joe Hisaishi plays his piano music from "Spirited Away"]
[The Art of Animation: Disney's “Tangled”]


Battlestar Galactica (2003 TV miniseries followed by 2004-2009 TV series)

“Galactica and Pegasus” by Balsavor, typical of much fine fan art spun off by the series (and worth seeing full size)


High resolution (2400x1600) Viper wallpaper, showing some of the series creators' loving attention to detail


OK, so I messed up on this one. This post was going to explain why the re-imagined BSG (based on Glen A. Larson's 1978 original) is the finest [insert category] television drama ever made, and why you shouldn't miss it if you haven't already seen it, even if you're not an SF fan. In the UK it's currently available free from Netflix, Amazon Prime, blinkbox and iTunes (and no doubt similarly in other countries).

The problem is that BSG is in a quite unique drama category, and so is bound to be the best of its type. Yes, it has awesome space hardware and effects, superior IMO to those in most blockbuster movies, but those exist just to give a very realistic background to a story about politics, ethics, religions, war, love, prejudices formed and overcome, loyalty and betrayal, what it means to be a person, and much else besides. Short version: my wife liked it as much as I did.

If you've seen it, hopefully this will bring back some memories. If you haven't, it helps to know that the Cylons are a cybernetic race originally created by humans, but now evolving themselves. Many Cylons are human in appearance (and in many other ways). These exist as many copies (or instances) of a small number of Cylon “models” - the exact number is one of several unfolding mysteries in the story. Some instances don't know that they are Cylons, believing that they are human until triggered.

Models are referred to by Cylons by number, e.g. Six, but not all models, nor instances of a particular model, think or behave the same way. The development of individuality and dissension amongst the Cylons is one of the rich elements of the story.

If a Cylon instance is killed then its personality is downloaded (if important circumstances are met) to a resurrection mechanism whose details emerge only gradually in the story, and is reborn in another identical body with memories intact. An instance that survives in this way is effectively immortal.

The Cylons have their own religion (the humans have several), and at least one non-corporeal “Angel”.

And, of course, the (supposedly) human characters in the story, both military and civilian, include an unknown number of Cylons. What happens as they gradually become aware of this is one of the many fascinations of the series.

Enough confusion... I'll hand over to some of the main characters.


Edward James Olmos as Commander (later Admiral) William Adama

Like his ship, Adama is ready for retirement when the story opens. The obsolete nature of his ship's equipment, and his justifiably paranoid refusal to network its computer systems, allow his ship to survive the Cylons' first sophisticated and devastating attack on the humans' Twelve Colonies, when more modern elements of the fleet are apparently all destroyed.

The attack - whose cause is not as obvious as first appears, as with so much of BSG - leaves only about 50,000 civilians alive in the human race, who eventually embark on an epic search for a new home, the fabled Earth, pursued at every turn by the Cylons.


Mary McDonnel as Laura Roslin, the surviving Secretary of State for Education who has to take over the role of President of the Colonies

Laura turns out to be a tough cookie, deceptive appearances to the contrary, and an able leader of the diverse remnants of the human population now inhabiting a motley assortment of civilian spacecraft. She and Adama will have many run-ins and conflicts of interest, eventually developing mutual respect and a very touching relationship.


A rare peaceful interlude. In a pivotal section of the story, the Colonists are persuaded to reject Laura as president by the despicable Gaius Baltar (below), abandoning their search for Earth to settle on a planet they call “New Caprica”, supposedly hidden from the Cylons by a nearby source of stellar radiation.

Many of the military elect to join the ground colony and start families, under the indolent presidency of Baltar. Galactica and Pegasus (the other surviving Battlestar encountered later) are essentially reduced to watchkeeping (and Adama grows that moustache). Then all hell breaks loose, as the Cylons find the colony, thanks indirectly to one of Baltar's many betrayals. There follows a period of occupation and guerilla-style insurgency, suicide bombing and reprisals. Some humans join the Cylon's secret police force, Baltar is coerced into signing death warrants for civilians, and a conflict escalates which echoes many around the world in recent times, as well as the Nazi occupations of WWII.

The four episodes that open Season 3, leading to the final liberation of the human colony, would make a blockbusting movie epic in their own right.


The beautiful Canadian model and actress Tricia Helfer, who plays many different instances of the Cylon “Number Six”

“Number Six” is undoubtedly the most complex of the Cylon models. As the instance known by the Cylons as “Caprica-Six”, she is responsible for seducing the brilliant scientist Gaius Baltar, giving the Cylons access to the Caprica defence mainframe and enabling the devastating nuclear attack on the planet.


Gaius Baltar (the English actor James Callis) with “Head/Inner/Messenger Six”, a non-corporeal instance of the Cylon model who constantly guides and motivates Gaius

One of the quirks of BSG are the frequent views of Gaius and “Head Six” when other people are present. Her interactions with him are quite physical, and when we see them from other people's point of view (when she is invisible) he is doing all kinds of strange things, including apparently talking to himself, which he has to desperately cover up. Surely someone would notice? And it gets even stranger before the end...


Gina Inviere, a very different instance of “Six”, with Gaius Baltar

Gina infiltrates Pegasus and is responsible for its invasion by Cylon soldiers. She is subsequently unmasked and traumatized by severe sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Pegasus' crew, instigated by and participated in by the brutal Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes). Baltar assists her to escape, whereupon she kills the Admiral (something that most viewers will feel is long overdue). Baltar hides her in the fleet, forming a long-unrequited relationship with her that complicates his relationship with “Head Six”. This relationship will ultimately lead to the discovery of New Caprica by the Cylons.

A full description of the “Six” model instances will be found here (with spoilers).


Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, considered to be Galactica's best Viper pilot

Kara is one of BSG's most deeply-developed central characters. Tough but vulnerable, she has complex relationships with other main characters. Saul Tigh (see later below), Galactica's Exec, throws her in the brig for insubordination. Commander Adama sees her as a daughter figure, and his son Lee Adama sees her as lead pilot, sparring partner and sometime lover. Kara doesn't appear to value her own life, but saves the fleet many times by extraordinary feats of flying and courage.

She has a final destiny that I have no intention of describing here...

Kara with Lee “Apollo” Adama (the English actor Jamie Bamber), who for some time is the CAG (Commander, Air Group) for Galactica

Due to tragic family history (caused inadvertently by Kara, though this isn't discovered until later), Lee and his father have a difficult relationship, one of many such interesting story-lines that thread BSG.


Kara in deep trouble, later in the story, and an illustration of how Kara's character was developed through Katee's acting ability


The American-born Canadian actress Grace Park as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, one of the instances of the “Number Eight” Cylon model

The first Sharon that we meet is “Boomer”, a pilot who doesn't realise that she is a Cylon. Boomer has an against-regs relationship with Chief Tyrol (see later below), who initially protects her when Sharon realises that she is unwittingly performing acts of sabotage. She asks Gaius Baltar to test her for being a Cylon; Gaius does so but falsifies the result out of cowardice.

Eventually she is triggered into shooting Commander Adama, nearly fatally, and is subjected to severe interrogations by Saul Tigh and Gaius Baltar. She is subsequently shot and killed by Cally, a female colleague of Chief Tyrol. A new instance of Boomer will return later...


We meet the second Sharon (given the callsign “Athena” much later) when Karl “Helo” Agathon (the Canadian actor Tahmoh Penikett) is stranded on Caprica. Helo thinks that this is the return of Boomer who was evacuating civilians; this Sharon is a knowing part of a Cylon plot to form a relationship with him and infiltrate the human fleet. But then Helo sees another “Eight” copy and realises what is going on, by which time this Sharon has genuinely fallen in love with him, and is pregnant with his child - a child who will be of immense importance in the future.

Returning to Galactica, a really interesting sequence of events develops, as various attempts to have her executed are postponed by Sharon's decisions to support the humans against the Cylons, saving the humans on several occasions. Winning trust (including Helo's) is a long and painful process, culminating in Adama's extraordinary appointment of her to lead the rescue mission on New Caprica, as only she can defeat their systems on the ground.

“How do you really know that you can trust me?” she asks Adama before the mission. “I don't,” replies Adama. “That's what trust is.”

On her return from the successful mission, it is the pilots themselves who give her the callsign “Athena”.

Helo later becomes the conscience of Galactica, first arguing against and then thwarting an opportunity to completely wipe out the Cylons in an act of genocide. Adama, secretly relieved, declines to punish him for what is in fact a serious act of treason, and the notion that Cylons are “just machines” begins to die.


Chief Galen Tyrol, “The Chief” (the Canadian actor Aaron Douglas)

Responsible for keeping Galactica's fighters operational, and even building one as a personal project during a desperate period, The Chief was originally intended to be a minor character in BSG. However he becomes a complex and important part of the story, representing the interests of the working man, becoming part of the resistance movement on New Caprica, and at one point making a key discovery in the search for Earth.


Samual T. Anders, callsign “Longshot” (the American actor Michael Trucco)

Sam Anders' role in the BSG story is much more complex than first appears. We meet him on Caprica after the Cylons' nuclear attack, leading a resistance group that escaped the initial devastation. In planting explosives he encounters Caprica-Six, the reincarnated Boomer and (for the first time) “Three” (see later below). Inexplicably at the time, the first two turn on “Three” and allow him to escape, one of the first indications of dissention developing among the Cylons.

Anders later meets Starbuck who is on a personal mission from President Roslin (an unapproved mission which leads Adama to imprison the President and declare Martial Law). Anders and Kara form a relationship, and Kara promises to return to rescue him and the rest of the team, although it will be a long time until she can fulfil that promise.


Sam marries Kara on New Caprica, and later rescues her from a particularly unpleasant captivity after the Cylon invasion. Kara's problems and her relationship with Lee Adama make the marriage very difficult, and eventually it breaks down. But Sam's part in the BSG story is far from over...


Saul Tigh, Galactica's Exec (played by the Canadian actor Michael Hogan), after losing an eye during mistreatment by the Cylons on New Caprica


Adama welcomes Saul back to Galactica after the rescue mission on New Caprica. Saul's experiences there have made him very bitter, and for a long time he is useless, and even destructive, as a functioning officer. He was responsible for hard-line insurgency on New Caprica, and was put in the position of killing his toxic wife Ellen after she (not quite fatally) betrayed the rescue operation.

Prior to the New Caprica incident, Saul had a disastrous experience deputizing for Adama after the Commander was shot by Boomer. His relationship with Adama goes back a long way, and we discover over a period of time why Adama tolerates less than ideal behaviour in his hard-drinking Exec.


Saul Tigh with an instance of the Cylon “Three” (the New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless), towards the end of the story

This encounter follows some extraordinary developments in the lives of both of these characters (and in many other lives as well). Explaining why would be a serious spoiler...

BSG does have some flaws or weaknesses, unsurprising in an epic of 77 episodes including the opening miniseries. Some people view the end itself as one such; I found myself coughing gently when I recognized the Citroen DS, and several other European cars, parked on Caprica (the makers must have hoped that US audiences wouldn't notice). However from my point of view these are totally minor, and I am enjoying BSG just as much, if not more, on my second time through.


If you like this...

WARNING: SPOILERS

[List of BSG episodes]
[Quotations from BSG]



“Downs in Winter”


“Furlongs”

Marvellous watercolours by the painter, designer, book illustrator, wood engraver and official War Artist (1940) Eric Ravilious, whose other work is well worth exploring (click either image above if you're interested).

For me, the spirit of Granny Aching still watches over these scenes of “The Chalk”. If you know what I mean then you might also be a fan of Terry Pratchett's wonderful books about Tiffany Aching (trainee witch) and The Wee Free Men (a bunch of tiny Caledonian hooligans), set in a mirror of this countryside (and assorted interconnecting worlds). The books are a unique combination of deep humanity, earthy wisdom and hilarious dialogue - if you have yet to try them, you might enjoy taking a look here.



Hockley Valley


“Morning on the Farm”


“Jenne Farm”

Beautiful images of autumn (or fall) in Canada, © by Magda Bognar


From the page Fall or autumn: the Canadian dilemma:


If you like this...

[Autumn and winter images by Anka Zhuravleva]





I had never registered Glen Keane's name until I saw this wonderful short animation. Now I keep noticing it, most recently when I finally got around to seeing his work on Tangled, which I liked as much as I liked Frozen. Glen apparently quit Frozen to work on Tangled - the text of his resignation letter is here.

Glen was also responsible for the character animation in one of my other favourite Disney films, Beauty and the Beast, which took the quality of Disney animations to a whole new level.

If you like animation, I recommend...

[More about Glen Keane]



— from this excellent article.

It's worth reading the whole thing (Seb Emina and Daniel Jones are really interesting people, too). Click the excerpt above to read more.

I dropped in on this Internet radio station throughout a waking day recently, and took some screenshots which appear below. The sunrise pictures change as the world turns. Sometimes the pictures are local to the current radio station (one of more than 250 being played in sequence), sometimes they are from somewhere else in the country, or aerial photos where no other picture is available. I'm sure these will change over time, and you can probably send in your own photos!

Click any screenshot to listen to this rather wonderful invention. It's a very human window on our world - even in troubled areas of the Middle East, you realise that when you get down to it, folks everywhere are just folks.


















There is also plenty more interesting stuff written about Global Breakfast Radio.

BTW: I discovered this (as I do so much other good stuff about news, gadgets and apps for computers and smartphones) on the BBC's excellent Click Programme.





A sample of the beautiful photography of Anna Ådén, a fine art and freelance portrait photographer living in Umeå, northern Sweden (click each image for the various sources)

I found this photographer here on the beautiful pages of Annie Hall, and I was introduced to Annie (as to so many beautiful things and people) by ensemble5. A visit to both of these Categorians is highly recommended.


If you like this...

[Try clicking the winter or sweden tags, among others...]


“Other Places” (2 of 2)
[continued from Part 1]

My screenshots below are from another of my favourites of these videos - Empire Bay (Mafia II). Click any image below to enjoy the cityscape, set to nice music.








You can find all of ultrabrilliant's Other Worlds videos here, and another set of screenshots (landscape, for a change) in my next post above.

If you like this...

["Underpass"]
[... and try clicking the urbanscape tag above...]



A beautiful untitled portrait by Anna Gusarova

(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.)


If you like this...

[All portraits from this site, sorted by popularity]
[Ginger-Snap's fine collection of redheads]








A truly beautiful video, blending science, nature and spirituality, from Cristóbal Vila
(click any screenshot to play, opens in a separate window)


Thanks, Elegantlady (Roberta)!


If you like this...

["Nature by Numbers", another beautiful video by Cristóbal Vila]



"Sweet Dawn" by Diane Varner - from her Daily Walks along the Northern California coastline and mountain trails
(seascapes, landscapes, insects, animals, found objects and macro images)

One of many fine things to be found on the pages of batchbatcharak.



La Venise Verte (The Green Venice) from a visit to the Vendée, Western France in 1996


"Gust of wind" (small detail from "The Bedroom", 1998)

Lovely watercolours by Bottletop, whose Categorian blog is well worth visiting (for many reasons)



"Rainy Days" by the Melbourne-based photographer Amy Weiss

Found on the always-beautiful pages of ensemble5.




Two of my screenshots from the computer game Syberia

I am no expert on computer games - I don't get much time to play them.

I do, however, enjoy really good adventure games that involve problem solving rather than shooting. The best of these games seem to me to be amazing works of art and technology. Developing these games must be not unlike working on a movie blockbuster such as The Lord of the Rings.

Syberia, created by the Belgian comic artist and video game developer Benoît Sokal, is (as of January 2012) the highest-ranked game in the GamingExcellence adventure game ratings, and having played it over the last month or two I am not at all surprised.

If you are interested, I have reviewed this and some other excellent adventure games here on my web site.



"The Devil's Point" © by John Parminter, one of the finest photographers of the Scottish Highlands and English Lake District, who writes:

[This is] The Devil's Point seen over erratic boulders left after the last ice age. This prominent mountain is a landmark when entering the Cairngorms from the south via the Lairig Ghru (more...)

Thanks again to aldchronicle56 (Allan) for this one!


If you like this...

[My posts on the English Lake District]




Some fine work © by Robert Alvarado, who has made retro pinup art a real art form - thanks to sezlez369 (Les) for this one!


[More from Robert Alvarado]



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.

Index of Photoblogs

The following are links to my photoblogs (more for my convenience than anyone's!):

“Fairfield Light”, taken around Fairfield Hospital mostly in 2018**
Cornwall, England (including Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan), June 2018

Sintra, Portugal, June 2017
Lisbon, Portugal, June 2017
Palm Island, Florida, March 2017
Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016
Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

Florida - Jensen Beach and Stuart, February 2016
Nice, Côte d'Azur, France (mostly Asian Arts Museum and Phoenix Park), November 2015
Lisbon, Portugal, September 2015 (includes visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium)
Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015
Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe, May 2015

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015
Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast, Italy, September 2013
Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013
Beautiful autumn - Havant and the South Downs, October 2012
Scenic seaside and the home of Agatha Christie - Dartmouth, Sept/Oct 2012

A beautiful hotel in Majorca, September 2012
France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012
Gardens, picturesque towns and the Devon seaside - West Country, October 2011
Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy, July 2011
Gardens, lake walks and home of Wordsworth - English Lake District, April 2011

Aix-en-Provence, October 2010
Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2010
Malta, the Pope and the Volcano - April 2010
A Walk in the New Forest, May, 2010
Mykonos, Greece - Summer 2006

Snow in England, December 2009**
Waddesdon Manor, Historic House and Gardens, December 21st 2009
Whitby, Yorkshire - November 17th, 2009
Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, Italy - July 23rd 2009
Fantasy of Flight, World's Greatest Aircraft Collection, April 2009

Fell walking, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome, Blackwell House - English Lake District, September 2008
Wrest Park, August 29th, 2008
Florida Keys, June 2008
Corsican Cats, September 2007
Venice (and what came after), September 2001

(** indicates local photography)


Singles, shorts, and contributions by offspring:

Oxfordshire Skies, 9th September 2017 (as Hurricane Irma hits Florida)

Supermoon, November 14th 2016**
Decorative fungi, Baulk Wood, January 2016**
Storm Henry approaching, January 2016**
Shadows in the mist, September 2015**
First touch of autumn (spiderweb), August 2015**

Sky over Baulk Wood**
Lisbon, Portugal, July 2014
December Sunset, December 8th 2013**
A quiet evening at the hotel Villa La Massa, Florence, June 2013
"Old Friends", 5th December 2012 - a group of gravestones in the old cemetery in a nearby meadow**

Autumn is here again... October 2012**
Trees, mist and frost, January 14th 2012**
Epping Forest - autumn and winter, 2011
Super Full Moon, March 19th 2011**
February Sunrise, 2011**

Autumn in England - November 6th, 2010**
Cold Front - weather dividing overhead, November 16th, 2010**
Winter (early) in England - frost and mist, December 15th, 2010**
Early morning with frost (manual HDR) - February 2010**
Snow in England December 2009**

Snow in England February 2009**
Matamanoa sunsets (daughter's picture), January 19th 2009
Bleinheim Palace in the snow (daughter's picture) early 2007
Stepping stones at Bolton Abbey (daughter's picture)
A quiet corner of Western Venice, September 2001

(** indicates local photography)


Is this your first time here?

A good way to get a quick intro to the rest of my Categorian blog, should you want to, is to visit my White Rabbit Index.

To go to my Categorian blog home page, click the chevrons (>>) below.




Beautiful photography by Pierre Moreau, a Frenchman now living in Belgium. Among other things, he is the press photographer of the European Commission.

Also, don't miss his beautiful colour work which you will find here.

Thanks to my great friend Louvain95 (Lou) for this one. Lou hails from Belgium and has beautiful pages that are well worth visiting.


(Original post: August 7th, 2011)

I have just updated my Italy web page, which has information and/or links about our favourite places there (which include the Italian Lakes, Tuscany and Umbria).



"Bridge to the old park" by Eugene Burmakin

This has become one of my very favourite paintings. If it were hanging in a gallery I would probably sit and look at it for 20 minutes!




Two delights in one here: a beautiful song by Enya, "China Roses", and an equally beautiful video to go with it by the Spanish environmental and peace activist angelsolcito (a lady well worth visiting)


Thanks to Pasatter for this one (I found it on her StumbleUpon pages, but she has now moved to Tumblr where she is Irish Fantasy).





Images of Imogen Heap from last.fm

Thanks to butterflyZa for this stunning video, and also to Mike who writes:

"Imogen Heap performing live for Indie103.1, spine-tingling stuff. Just the girl herself, sampling and looping her own vocals live on this version of Just For Now."

Imogen is an extraordinarily talented lady, with an amazing command of both technology and music. I saw her once on BBC's Breakfast Show, where (sitting on the sofa, with her various gizmos more or less invisible about her person) she demonstrated how she could harmonize live with herself. Click any of the above images to hear what she can really do in a live performance.


If you haven't met it before...

[More about last.fm]



"Escape" by Zach Blume
(inspired by Jan von Holleben's "Dreams of Flying")

It feels like a sunny day!


Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru
In llama land there's a one-man band
And he'll toot his flute for you
Come fly with me, let's take off in the blue

Once I get you up there,
Where the air is rarified
We'll just glide
Starry-eyed
Once I get you up there
I'll be holding you so near
You will hear angels cheer
Just because we're together

Weather-wise it's such a lovely day
You just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away...


Lyrics by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.

Listen here.





[Another fun way to fly, Snoopy-style]
[More of the bright side of life...]


Natasha Richardson RIP - March 18th, 2009

I was really sorry to hear of the tragic death of the beautiful and gifted actress, Natasha Richardson. My heart goes out to her husband Liam Neeson and to the rest of her family and friends.

My favourite memories of Natasha Richardson will always be the 1994 film "Nell", where she first met and acted with her future husband.

Nell was the story of the discovery of a speech-impaired "wild child" (a virtuoso performance by Jodie Foster), raised in isolation in the woods of North Carolina, and the relationships that develop between her, the local doctor (Liam Neeson), and the psychologist who is called in to study her (Natasha Richardson).

As the story develops, several preconceptions and assumptions are overturned, the most interesting of which concern exactly who is helping whom.

Here are some of my screen captures of this movie from my DVD (the best that I could do).

One of my favourite scenes: the "Mummy loves Daddy really" sequence where Nell stops the doctors arguing. I suspect, perhaps wrongly, that it was somewhere around here that their real-life marriage had its first roots!


The final scenes:





When I saw this movie in the cinema, there were two marks of respect that are very rare nowadays: you could have heard a pin drop in the audience throughout, and nobody moved from their seats until the end of the credits.

Natasha gave many other fine performances, on both stage and screen. She will be greatly missed.

[My movies page]



"Rainy day", one of many beautiful pictures by Alexander Volkov

Another one gratefully swiped from the excellent pages of aquieterstorm. Thanks, Cheryl!


Here are a few suggestions if you want a quick sample of what I think are the best of these pages (if you are looking for my favourite tags, they're below).

Fun Stuff:

Selections from Classic Peanuts **
Moonshadow68's great cartoon collection **
Some great computer games **
Sock It To The Holidays (Carol Of The Bells) - a hilarious review of economics in 2008
White Christmas by Joshua Held - the coolest, funniest Christmas video ever?
Corsican Cats
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tigger Shot: The uninvited bouncing had gone on long enough...
Bear Feet: grizzlies snooze the afternoon away...
Civilization comes to Washington Dulles Airport!

Beautiful Stuff:

"Lux Aeterna" by Cristóbal Vila **
"Harvest Moon" by Neil Young, a wonderful slow-dance track for all you romantic people **
"Down Like Rain" by Jessie Cook **
Stained glass by Robert Oddy
Enya "China Roses" / Angelsolcito "Beautiful Dream" **
Titian beauty by Black Orchid **
"Elixir" by Melanie Delon
"Healing" by Hyung Jun Kim **
"Kathy's Song" by Paul Simon **
"Just for now", multi-tracked live by Imogen Heap **
"Stealing from an eye" by ~calico901 on deviantART **
"Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme", Simon and Garfunkel
"For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her", Simon and Garfunkel
"River Man", haunting autumnal song in 5/4 time by Nick Drake **
"Leaping to the high wild mountain" - snow leopard
Window frost patterns
"Dream..Dream" by Rarindra Prakarsa

Interesting Stuff:

Mission Galapagos, stunning BBC documentary **
My "Trump Diaries", following the slow-motion train wreck happening in the USA **
What we take for granted (2)... GPS, the miracle in your smartphone **
What we take for granted (1)... what would a megabyte (gigabyte, terabyte) look like if we could see individual bits?
“Minions”, and the fascination of constructed languages **
Decoding the songs of humpback whales
Is our weather getting worse? **
A tour of the International Space Station **
Curiosity Rover lands on Mars (from NASA TV) **
Create your own ambient sounds with free online mixer desk **
Nature by Numbers **
Global Breakfast Radio
How To Build... A Jumbo Jet Engine
Word games and spreadsheets
The harp guitar
Awesome pictures from Hubble (and a science poem)
The amazing Mandelbrot Set, and other explorations
A real revolution in car engines
BBC Radio 4 Programmes - A History of the World in 100 Objects
My travel photoblogs (index) **

Great Entertainment: **

The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
The Art of Animation: Disney's “Tangled”
Battlestar Galactica (2003 TV miniseries followed by 2004-2009 TV series)
The most relaxing PC games
Borgen - one of the finest political TV dramas ever made
Karen Gillan in “Angels Take Manhatten” - Doctor Who reaches new heights (unequalled since, but still hoping!)
Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips) - one of my favourite romantic feel-good movies
Born of Hope - amazingly good amateur prequel to The Lord of the Rings, free to watch
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
Most enjoyable movie of 2007 (and a lesson in enjoying life): Ratatouille
Spend an evening with Diana Krall
St Trinian's (the movie) - wonderful political incorrectness
More on my Movies/TV page... >>


Favourite Tag Selections:

arts ~ painting ~ watercolour ~ drawing ~ pencil ~ acrylic ~ digital art ~ sculpture ~ stained glass ~ art sites

photography ~ hdr photography ~ night photography ~ photography tutorials ~ photography sites ~ photoshop

landscape ~ seascape ~ boats ~ urbanscape ~ still life ~ sunrise ~ sunset ~ abstract ~ desktop wallpaper

portraits ~ mood portraits ~ figurative art ~ fantasy art

things to enjoy in life ~ relaxation ~ smiles ~ childhood ~ nature ~ humour ~ beautiful women ~ nudes (tasteful) ~ romantic stuff ~ reading ~ books ~ entertainment ~ computer games ~ movies ~ animation ~ music ~ summer ~ autumn ~ winter ~ rain ~ snow ~ christmas ~ england ~ florida ~ france ~ italy

life improvement ~ inspiration ~ London 2012 Olympics ~ London 2012 Paralympics ~ urban regeneration

science ~ science and religion ~ astronomy ~ space exploration ~ NASA ~ mind stretchers ~ environment

nature ~ forests ~ flowers ~ dogs ~ cats ~ wildlife ~ bears ~ birds ~ owls

** computers ~ computer help ~ categorian help ~ internet ~ computer security ~ software ~ operating systems ~ windows 7 ~ windows 10

Posts relating to Brian's web site

All of my Categorian tags...


The Coyote Route:

This is another way to zip through my back pages. If you want a fast sample that jumps you in at different points (which may change from time to time), just click the Coyote!

Once you're there, you can follow a sequence by clicking the chevrons >> at the end of a post, or try clicking a tag you like at the top of a post.

That's it for now... I'll update this occasionally... Gotta run!

[Dashes off, pretending to be busy, and finds a good place for an afternoon siesta]



Stealing from an Eye

May zephyrs ferry me so far,
To brush the tips of dusty stars;
To slip within a shadow's sigh;
And take the twinkle from an eye...

May final quietus interpose,
To shake the rhyming from the prose;
To face a door that will not pry;
And take the teardrops from an eye...

May faded cadence trill away,
To serenade a heart of clay;
To lead an army out to die;
And take the beauty from an eye...

May lonely letters slowly drown,
To turn a smile to a frown;
To cast a restless soul awry;
And take perception from an eye...


I have seen this great photo-montage on many blogs, but here is the original.

The photo-montage is by ~calico901, and if you click the picture you will see that she credits the sources that she used to put the picture together.

The wonderful words, which are the original ones that went with this picture, are by ~Felixavier. ~calico901 and ~Felixavier kind of did this together as a joint project. Thanks, guys!




River Man

Betty came by on her way

Said she had a word to say
About things today
And fallen leaves.

Said she hadn't heard the news
Hadn't had the time to choose
A way to lose
But she believes.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the plan
For lilac time.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
And all night shows
In summertime.

Betty said she prayed today
For the sky to blow away
Or maybe stay
She wasn't sure.

For when she thought of summer rain
Calling for her mind again
She lost the pain
And stayed for more.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the ban
On feeling free.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
I don't suppose
It's meant for me.

Oh, how they come and go
Oh, how they come and go.



A haunting, beautiful, autumnal song in 5/4 time by Nick Drake, from the album Five Leaves Left.


Nick died young in 1974; I wish I'd heard his music earlier. More on his story here, and on the song itself here.

The images in the video, I understand, are extracts from a BBC documentary on Nick Drake.







"Healing (2006)"


An absolutely beautiful work of digital art, one of many by the Korean artist Hyung Jun Kim. Thanks to my friend cloud-weaver (Marina) for leading me to this one.