31 May 2009

May Flowers

I wanted to end the month the way I started it, sharing some of the flowers we are graced with around here in Spring (click on photos for a larger view).

Such as these delicate Limonium delicatulum (or acelga salada; if I remember my Botany classes correctly, certain species of Limonium are endemic to the Spanish coast, and in general they're quite rare).

A close-up on the tiny flowers:

And here's another Limonium species:

And our cheery Asteriscus maritimum:
And while all those purple flowers I photographed on trees a month ago are gone, there's a new group of trees out that are bursting with royal purple! I love these (although they can be a nuisance to having a clean car). They remind me of Mexico, of a plaza in front of a church we went to occasionally after our parish priest was transferred there. The whole plaza was surrounded by these and at this time of year it was like walking through a purpple cloud: lovely delicate flowers in the boughs above your head, and the flowers that had begun to fall beneath your feet. Does anyone know their name?

Close-up on the flowers:
Finally, do you remember that tree stump in my first flowery post (Earth Day)? Oops, now that I look at it you can;t tell in the picture entitled "new growth" that it's a stump. Well, you can still see the changes:

New growth indeed!
Hmmm... I like sharing pictures. Perhaps I'll get into the summery mood and share snippets of the Mediterranean with you these next couple of months. If for no other reason than to drive you insanely jealous share the beauties of this region! ;o)


(publicity in the Paris metro in June 2007)

(photo by AFP, on NYTimes website)

Not even by Djokovic, Murray or Federer, but by a 22-seeded Swede?!
(photo by AFP, on NYTimes website)


I'm in official tennis mourning... :o(

I knew this day would come... our unvanquished champion would fall... but NOT THIS YEAR!!! After a couple of years chasing after and matching Bjorn Börg's records (4 consecutive Roland Garros titles, winning RG and Wimbledon the same year, etc.), THIS was the year in which he was going to create his own record for others to beat: 5 successive RG titles!


He played well, and yet not well enough. He wasn't 100% the Rafa we've admired so often on court -clay or otherwise-. I noticed something seemed off 2 weeks ago in the Madrid Master's and hoped he'd shake whatever it was off in time for Paris. But I guess not.

A -not so subtle- reminder that our champions are only human after all. As he himself admits, recognising his faults, in an interview he states that at during the whole the match he "didn't play with calm" (only found a Spanish transcript of bits of the interview on RTVE). He is his usual humble self, admitting his errors, and hoping Federer wins the tournament.

Ah! I've found two videos on YouTube (boy does he look miserable). The second seems to be the continuation of the first (different source). I love his answer in the first when asked how he's planning to prepare for Wimbledon! ;o)

And after all, full credit to Robin Soderling who's got to be in 7th heaven right now, and has earned -thanks to some amazing tennis, good lord what a serve and drive!- his place in the books as the guy who stopped Rafa's winning streak in Roland Garros.

I was soooo looking forward to watching a 100% Spanish, Nadal vs Verdasco 1/4 final match on Tuesday... but Verdasco couldn't make it either, never managing to threaten Davydenko who beat him quite easily in 3 sets...

So, what's left for Roland Garros this week? After the intial shock of Djokovic getting knocked out yesterday, and the MAJOR shock of losing Nadal today... all I can say is that Federer had better take FULL advantage of his opportunity to complete his career Grand Slam and equal Sampras' record of Grand Slam titles (14 I believe). His two most dangerous rivals out of the way, if he plays the way he did in the Madrid Masters two weeks ago... he shouldn't have too much trouble. But better lock it in now 'cause next year Rafa will be back to continue chasing another of Björg's records: the most Roland Garros titles (6). :o) VAMOS RAFA!!!

Hmmm... can you tell I'm a big tennis fan? This is nothing... you should check out my attempt at live-blogging this year's Australian Open final between Nadal and Federer here. ;o) And to think once upon a time I really disliked the sport... all that changed when I learnt to play properly. And learnt to appreciate watching good matches on TV with my dad. And then living in Belgium for 8 years where it's a big deal helped. Not to mention the awesome opportunity to watch a couple of men's 1/4f matches two years ago (one with Djokovic, the other Nadal vs Moya, such fun!) live in Paris. The energy in the Philippe Chatrier stadium is just... amazing!

Oh well, I now really hope Federer gets his name etched into the Coupe des Mousqutaires this year! But it will be a strange final... no Federer vs Nadal. But I'll be watching it whoever he's playing against!

26 May 2009

Nocturnal Encounters

Just got back from a dog walk. We decided to go for a moonlight stroll (or should I say crescent moonlight? not much light!) to the bluff over-looking the sea (the place I took all those wild flower pictures at the beginning of the month). It's a great place to tire the dog out a bit 'cause even if it's too dark to go walking around much, there is a nice steep slope to throw rocks down and make a four-legged-furry-critter overjoyed to chase.

It's the first time I've been around there in the dark... and I'll have to try it again sometime with my camera just in case we come across more encounters such as this one:

Sorry for the not great quality, but it was taken with my cellphone and lit with a small flashlight I have hooked on my key-chain. :p

A bit closer up at mister Hedgehog:

We came up on him in the middle of a path, but Luna chased him into the shrub before I could get my cellphone into camera mode. But now I'm on alert and we'll get him next time! ;o)
It's amazing to still find wild critters like this within the city limits! And ok, this is a "protected" park over-looking the sea... but a couple of months ago we came across another one in a dirt lot between two apartment complexes near my parents' place. Remnants from when this entire area used to be rural. Hard to believe that was barely over a decade ago! Damn 90s construction boom... :s

25 May 2009

Fantasy Maestro

Just came across an interview I'd like to share with you. It's with Mexican movie director Guillermo Del Toro (El Espinazo del Diablo, Cronos, Hellboy I and II, Pan's Labyrinth), Maestro of Fantasy. I enjoyed and was chilled to the bone with his Espinazo del Diablo (set in an orphanage/school towards the end of the Spanish Civil War) and fell in love (and cried my eyes out) with his fairy tale for adults Pan's Labyrinth (set just after the end of the Spanish Civil War). I have yet to see his other films, but these two were so original and captivating that I've got him on my list of "auteurs" to keep an eye out for whenever they've got a new project coming out. And considering one of his future projects is JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit... I'm very impatient!!!

So here it is, he discusses some of his future projects and how he thinks movies will evolve (with a lot more participation by the public):

I just missed a mention of the third "Spanish" movie I had heard once upon a time he was supposed to do (a companion piece to the two mentioned above, sort of a loose trilogy on the effects of the Spanish Civil War). I hope it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of all the "Hollywood" projects! ;o)

21 May 2009


The biologist in me seems to be peeking out today, begging to be acknowledged as an integral part of who I am (and not just a TV/movie/book fan). Probably also due to thesis guilt piling up...

Anyhow, I just wanted to share a couple of cool/cute/funky animal stories! Or actually send you to them. :p

The other day I was introduced to a new (for me) and interesting blog The Smitten Image via a tale of raccoon rescue. A lovely little tale in two parts (part one, part two) with some damn cute photos (such as the one shown here borrowed from The Smitten Image). If you're an animal lover I highly recommend you check it out, and if not... go do it anyway! :p

And to link things back to movies (and sci-fi in particular), you know all those scary aliens/monsters we see on-screen? Well they're not half as freaky as some of the real life animals we've got right here on Planet Earth! The sea is such a mysterious place (that I absolutely adore, good thing I'm a marine biologist!) and it's got some damn curious inhabitants! Case in point, go check out the Science Channel (didn't even know that existed!) and it's photo-list of the Top 10 Weirdest Sea Creatures (we had a few of these in the Aquarium I volunteered for as a guide in Liège, and I can confirm I used to get some great reactions from the public when telling them stories about these critters!). My favourite is no.4 the Leafy Seadragon and no.3 the Longhorn Cowfish. I saw no.4 while diving in Australia, so excited! And kids used to love the Cowfish in the Aquarium (pictured right, fuzzy, sorry!)... and were surprised at its enforced isolation from others... damn thing tends to poison its tank-mates when scared!

Hmmm... writing this post has helped me realise how much time can get "lost" while blogging! I was just going to jot down a few lines to send you along to those stories/photos... and got caught up looking for a pic from the Liège Aquarium to illustrate it (reminds me I have to take better pictures next time I'm there now that I have a decent camera). I also found a series of short videos a friend took with her camera one day when she was visiting me while I was doing a tour at the Aquarium. I'll have to "stitch" together the ones about the sharks, they're rather funny! I'll post them here as soon as I have time to work on those. But here's a view of that Cowfish (my voice in the background is actually talking about pufferfish and porcupine fish in the next aquarium):

And now I'm going to do what I was planning on doing over an hour ago: to bed!!!

20 May 2009

Movie Magic: Wolverine

So why am I putting a big action, special effects heavy flic in my movie magic section? Well because in this case I got to see behind the curtain for a bit! I got to witness some of the magic that brings a movie to life!

No idea what I'm talking about? No worries, I'll explain a bit better! ;o)

Last year (Feb'08) we had a family vacation visiting my sister in New Zealand (btw, GORGEOUS country! the movies don't do it justice). While we were in the South Island, just south of Queenstown, my sister and I went on a horseback riding promenade in an area known as "Paradise". My sister would have prefered the other option which was down in the valley along the riverbed and allowed for places to gallop, but how could I turn down a ride through the birch wood of Lothlorien?! Yup, quite a few scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed in those woods!!! (some of Lothlorien, Boromir's death... also early scenes from Prince Caspian, when he falls off his horse).
After crossing through the woods we ended up on a promontoir looking over a glacial river zig-zagging through morain deposits: the location for the White Tower!!! And the early scenes from Willow! So much fun being able to recognise locations like that from what you've seen on-screen!

Wait, what does this have to do with Wolverine again? Well, turns out they were filming it right then and there!!! We drove over a dirt road through the woods to get to the horses... well we drove right by Hugh Jackman!!! OMG!!! and my damn camera was too slow on the zoom-in process.... They were filming the motorcycle vs jeep chase sequence (gorgeous bike btw!).
And the place we started riding? Well the horses were pasturing right next to the barn featured in the film (where a naked Logan takes refuge after his adamantium treatment), a barn that was built specially for the film (boom!) I might add... ;o).
On the drive out of there we got our second glimpse of the man himself in a tent, this time my camera was slightly less slow, but still not fast enough (he's there lurking in the shadows).
Then with the excitement of it all in the afternoon we went back to that area with my parents (in the car) hoping to see more. And we got up as close as they'd let us to a helicopter tied between two cranes (for the purpose of crashing it, more BOOM!).

Our rental car couldn't deal with the rocks and ditches any more so we had to head back out to civilisation but we were pretty excited with just that, our first witnessing of a movie in the making! :o)

Oh, and what did I think of the movie itself? of Wolverine? (finally saw it this weekend with my Dad) Well, in between having fun spotting the stuff we saw on sight a year ago, I thought it was a blast! Doesn't pretend to be anymore than it is: a big special effects movie with a great character and quite a few winks to the fans (Scott Summers as a kid? that voice in his head and the bald guy?). The first two X-Men movies were in a whole other league than this (their stories actually had a meaning, and I'd rather not think about the third), but this is still great to help fill in some of the blanks in a favourite mysterious character. And hey, any chance to see Hugh Jackman running around in his birthday su
it gets an A+ from me! ;o)

And as a post-script, just to prove we were there:unfortunately you can't make out our trademark red hair under those horrid riding helments! :p

19 May 2009

TV Addiction: cancellation rant addendum... and homage

Well, after my rant the other day, it appears we have another series to mourn... with FOX officially announcing their 2009-2010 schedule, it's official that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has ended its run with the 2nd season finale. *sigh* Although this has been expected / dreaded for some time now, it still hurts.
On the plus side, at least Dollhouse has been renewed so we get to glimpse into the workings of crazy Joss Whedon's mind for another 13 episodes at least! ;o)

So, in memory of my favourite shows cancelled before their time, here goes a fan video someone put together in honour of one of them (Firefly) to a really great tune. And yeah, all too often the best shows really do need a Hero to pull them off the bubble and into renewal-land!

Addendum (May 20): Summer Glau thanks the fans:

18 May 2009

Illustrating "Moros y Cristianos" in San Vicente, take 3: Entrada Mora

I'm afraid I've been a bit busy this (past) week so haven't had time to finishing touching up and selecting the pics for this post (and the Flickr album). Finally managed to work on then yesterday in between serves during the Madrid Master's Final... can't believe Federer finally beat Nadal (and on clay!!!), I can't remember when I last saw that, what stress! Particularly after that amazing match between Nadal and Djokovic last night.

Anyhow, back to the business at hand, MOROS!!! ;o) If you're new here you're probably wondering what I'm taking about. I wrote a detailed post about the whole crazy event here, but in summary it's sort of a re-creation / celebration of the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the 8th century and the reconquest by the Christian Kingdoms over the subsequent 7 centuries (culminating in the fall of Granada in January 1492). The crazy parades and fiesta take place over several days (in the case of the town of San Vicente fortunately most of it is on the weekend). I "illustrated" the Entrada Cristiana in this post, and some of the nightime activities -the Moorish Embassy- in this post.

And now to finish it off, the Entrada Mora on the afternoon of Sunday April 19th. I missed the tail end of the parade because I had to take some friends to the airport, but I did get to see most of it! The two groups -Comparsas- with bigger roles start and close off the parade: the Comparsa Tuareg with the Capitanía Mora, and the Comparsa Benimerines with the Alferecía Mora (the names of the different Comparsas are supposedly related to different arab tribes or kingdoms in the Peninsula).

So, here goes! I've added more photos to my Flickr album, to see them click here. You can make these pics bigger by clicking on them. Enjoy!

First Tuareg troups clearing a path...
Beautiful horses...
Leading the charge
Water... such an essential element for a desert tribe!
A squad of archers
A dromedary! (and there were donkeys and goats and oxen as well!)
Ready for battle?

More dancers...
A moving market!

More troups:
El Capitán and his wife:
Closing up the ranks of the Tuaregs
Members of other Comparsas:

Troups staged and ready and waiting to head out!
Getting ready to head out:
A tired Moro Nuevo suffering the consequences of the previous night's fiesta:

A crazy Benimerin waiting to launch the tail-end of the parade: