8 Oct 2013

Literary Guest Post on "The Devil's Brood"!

I have a couple of posts in the works for here and the other blogs... but my photo editing and writing have gotten a bit sidetracked lately by my need to get to bed early and READ! :p I've been sucked into the world of Sharon Kay Penman and her fantastic novels about medieval England and Wales (and parts of France when they were ruled by Norman lords). 

I've been taking notes for a more complete post on her books once I've finished with them, but I just wanted to share this with you: I was invited to write a review of one of them, The Devil's Brood, as a guest post on a blog centred on Henry the Young King (son of Henry II and Aliénor of Aquitaine, crowned King during his father's lifetime but he died before his father so he never reigned). Yay me! :o)

The Devil's Brood covers the period when Henry and Aliénor's sons are all grown up and causing serious problems for their father and each other (rebellion!), and it's the final book in Penman's Angevin trilogy (When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, The Devil's Brood).

So here's the link to my review. I hope you enjoy it! And I definitely recommend Sharon's books! Just be wary of reading them when you go to bed... the result is many sleepless nights! :p

15 Sep 2013

Summer Blockbuster Ramblings

As I mentioned the other day, I think I've managed to see most of the big blockbusters in the cinema this summer... or at the very least all the ones I was interested in as well as a few extras! As usual my partner in crime was my fellow cinema-addict, my dad! A couple of times I did go out with some of my friends (but it's not easy getting them to the theatre!) ;o)  

So here are a few thoughts... Old news, I know, but if you've seen them it's always fun to exchange impressions! And if you haven't, well then maybe this will help you decide to catch them on dvd/online/ whatever or stay away from it! :p

7 Sep 2013


<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/5096037/?claim=yqqr4fqg94e">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Just adding a bit of code to connect my blogs to Bloglovin'. I'm trying it out as I'm looking for a good app to access the blogs I follow on my iPhone, and while the Blogger app lets me write my own posts, it doesn't show me the blogs I follow and I've been so busy I haven't had time to sit down on my computer and read other blogs and I miss them!!! :p  Hopefully this should help me stay in touch a bit more...

Update: So the Bloglovin things looks cool on the iPhone, seems like it will be a good way to keep track of blogs. But I've discovered I still have a HUGE problem to be able to stay update while on the go: COMMENTING! As in I CAN'T DO IT on my iPhone!!! Booo!!! I go to the comment box, type out my comment, choose GoogleID... but then it doesn't give me anywhere to sign in and when I click submit my comment disappears! *sob*  I like to comment on the posts I read, if I can't comment then I'll wait to read them when I'm back on my computer which means I still won't be reading any blogs on my iphone. HELP!!! Anyone else have this problem, commenting via iOS? Solutions?

31 Aug 2013

Random ramblings: catching up with an M.I.A. CrazyCris

First of all: THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the 5th Annual World Oceans Day Oceanic Blog-A-Thon! There were some wonderful entries, and I'm so glad we could get together again to share our love for the oceans in our little corner of the blog-o-sphere! :o)

But that was almost 3 months ago... where did the time go?! :o(

And thus the title of this post. So... yeah. Sorry 'bout that! I've definitely been M.I.A. since World Oceans Day, and even for a bit before that! And sadly I don't think I'll be very active in the near future... although I promise to try!

And here's why! Good things and bad things.

7 Jun 2013

Oceanic Blog-A-Thon 2013

Welcome one, welcome all!!!

Did you know that over 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water? This makes our planet quite unique, as its the only one in our Solar System with liquid water. So when do we get to rebaptise the planet "Ocean"? ;o)

Did you know that there are over 250'000 identified marine species? 98% of which live on the ocean floors (benthic species) and only 2% in the water column (pelagic species). Plants, animals, micro-organisms... Plants that range from single-celled algae (phytoplankton) to the prairies of seagrass Posidonia oceanica that carpet parts of the Mediterranean seabed, to the impressive kelp forests along the western coast of North America. Microscopic zooplankton which is eaten by slightly larger krill which in turn is eaten by the largest animal on the planet, the massive blue whale! There are animals that live "stuck" on the ocean floor (corals, sponges etc.), and animals that cross vast distances to get from breeding grounds to feeding grounds each year (humpback whales for example). Life on this planet originated in the oceans and eventually crawled out onto land, and in the oceans we can find species which have been around for millions of years!

Who am I??? I am a...

It's finally here! The day you've all been waiting for! The answer to my World Oceans Day riddle!!! ;o)

First of all I just wanted to give a big thank you to Kim from Snug Harbour Bay whose holiday photos from Sanibel Island gave me the idea to choose this critter, and her daughter Chablis who kindly sent me a series of photos she took so I could use them in this post! :o)

Let's start by reviewing the clues, which I've enhanced with a few links to useful information. Try and figure it out as we go along, no cheating by jumping to the end! :p

1. I am a LIVING FOSSIL! I am very old. I pre-date flying insects, dinosaurs and man.
2. I am a marine animal, with only four species alive today.

6 Jun 2013

Who am I? (5)

It's the final day in the World Oceans Day guessing game!!! And these last three clues pretty much give it all away! You'll get the full scoop on our mystery critter tomorrow during the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon!


13. My first pair of appendages, which I use to place food in my mouth, are called chelicerae. They're present in all my relatives, which is why our subphylum is called the Chelicerata.

14. Some people find my shape reminds them of a horseshoe...

15. My name is a misnomer! I am not a crab!!! (but we are distantly related)


5 Jun 2013

Who am I? (4)

Ready for the next batch of clues in our World Oceans Day guessing game? If you think you know who it is, perhaps these will help you confirm your guess! If not... maybe these will be the ones to guide you to an answer. Good luck!
Remember: you'll get the answer this Friday in time for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon!

Here are today's clues:

10. I come out at night to eat worms and small molluscs, but hide (usually in the sand) during the day.

11. If I'm a male I'm smaller than the females and my first pair of "legs", the pedipalps, are modified as a grasping appendage so I can hold on to the female during spawning.

12. We (males and females) meet up on the beach during spawning season (May-June). I detect her through the pheromones she releases, and "hold on" to her as she lays the clutches of eggs while I fertilize them.


4 Jun 2013

Who am I? (3)

Day three means three new clues to help you identify the mysterious oceanic critter!
Maybe these will be the ones to help you figure it out?
You'll get the answer on Friday in time for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon!

Here are your new clues!

7. I have two compound lateral eyes and five simple eyes on my carapace. 

8. I "breathe" (capture oxygen from the water) using book gills (flat, leaflike gills), present on some of my abdominal appendages.

9. I am a true blue-blood! (You can call me "your highness"!) This is because my blood uses hemocyanin instead of hemoglobin to carry oxygen. The copper present in the hemocyanin makes it blue!


Previous clues here and here. New clues tomorrow! 

3 Jun 2013

Who am I? (2)

Day two of our World Oceans Day guessing game, and three new clues to help you identify the mysterious oceanic critter! The riddle will be solved on Friday in time for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon!

Here are your new clues! (first batch of clues here)

4. I can walk using my five pairs of walking legs. I have an extra pair of cephalothorax appendages which I use to get food to my mouth. These have a special name which I won't share just yet 'cause they might give the whole game away! ;o)

5. I can swim ("upside down"!) using my abdominal plates (fused abdominal appendages)

6. I have a hard dorsal shell called a carapace and a long needle-shaped tailpiece called a telson. In order to grow in size I will have to molt, shed my shell, several times during my life.


Newer clues here.

2 Jun 2013

Who am I? (1)

Since it seemed to be quite popular last year and the year before (follow the links and try to guess!), my contribution to the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon this year is going to be another marine animal guessing game! Five posts with three clues each... feel free to ask questions or guess the answer in the comments!

Friday I'll post the answer and launch the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon. I sure hope you're planning on joining in! ;o)

Now... let the World Oceans Day guessing game begin!!!

1. I am very old. I pre-date flying insects, dinosaurs and man.

2. I am a marine animal, with only four species alive today.

3. My closest living relatives are found on land. (I do have one lesser-known distant cousin who still lives in the ocean like me)


(You didn't think I'd make it easy right at the beginning, did you?) ;o)

More clues here.

1 Jun 2013

Join the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon for World Oceans Day!

Only one week to go until World Oceans Day!!! :o)

Have you made any plans? Checked out the events listed at the World Oceans Day website to see if there's anything taking place near you? Or perhaps created your own event?

I'm sure you been thinking about what to write for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon next weekend!!! Right?!?!?!
I've finally figured out what my contribution will be from this blog (still have to find time for the post from CrisCrossing the Globe), I'm going to introduce you to a funky oceanic critter... but first you have to try and guess who it is!!! Three clues a day starting tomorrow... good luck! ;o)

Although things have been quiet here on the blog (one of these days I'll have to explain my disappearing act this spring), I have been getting ready for World Oceans Day and the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon! I've submitted it as an official event on the WOD website, hopefully it will appear there soon. And I've created an event page you can join on Facebook! I also learnt how to launch a hash tag on Twitter... I had no idea it was so simple! So you can expect updates on the FB event page and on Twitter via #oceanicblogathon. :o)

And now, time for ...


1. Write a post on your blog on an ocean-related theme any time this week or next weekend. Can be anything you like! Need ideas? Check out posts from previous editions: 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009. Don't have a blog but would like to participate anyway? You can write a guest post on either of my blogs Here and There and Everywhere or CrisCrossing the Globe.

2. Send me the link! Either in a comment under this post, on the Facebook event page, on Twitter or by e-mail (crazycrisblogger atgmailetc. -am trying to avoid the spambots).

3. I will write up an introduction to your post and link up to it here at the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon so other participants and visitors will know where to find it!

4. Remember:
  • Link back to the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon in your post!
  • Go read the other participating posts and leave them a comment!
  • Check back in to the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon several times over the weekend as I'll be updating it each time I get a new submission. (I'll announce updates on Facebook and Twitter)

5. Spread the word!
The more people participate in the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon the more interesting it will be for all of us! Go ahead and use the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon poster above.

6. HAVE FUN!!! :o)

I hope to sea many of you here next weekend! ;o)

What say we end this on a musical note? Deep Sea News posted a series of oceanic songs a while back and this seems like the perfect time to share some of them with you! Enjoy! :o)


19 May 2013

Cruel Albion

Although really I should be saying "Cruel Hispania", since Spain's the real culprit here!

Why "Cruel Albion"? Well basically because when I was walking around Bristol a few weeks ago, the city proceeded to torture me by having a series of posters on display that were pretty much taunting me whenever I turned my head... Taunting me about what? Here, take a look:


Rub it in my face England why don't you! Same goes for the rest of the world!!! And the worst offender is my sister in New Zealand who was taunting me 10 days ago about already having seen it (before the rest of the world)!!!

So what's the big deal? Why don't I just go see it for myself and stop complaining? Because in Spain it's not coming out until JULY!!!! grrrrrrrrrrrrr.... How dare they!!! I've been impatiently waiting for mid-May to arrive for months!!! And now I have to wait an extra 2 months?!?!?! It's almost enough to drive me to log onto the Ryanair website and get myself a ticket to the UK... almost. I'm not that crazy! Although once upon a time I did used to go to Holland from Belgium just to watch movies in English instead of French... But to be fair... Maastricht was only a 20' drive from Liège, and there were several of us in the car who did not want to see Harry Potter (and several others) in French so... not that crazy of me... :p

Almost 2 months... I keep hearing good things about it and am trying real hard to stay away from spoilers. July 5th can't get here soon enough!!!

8 May 2013

World Ocean's Day is only a month away!

OMG! How did I let so much time pass before reminding you guys about World Oceans Day?! In my mind I was going to do this monthly reminder with photos and videos starting in January... but I've been so busy I never got around to it! :o(

So listen up people (for those who don't already know):


Yup, it's an official (UN-declared) day dedicated to our Seas and Oceans! Considering our planet is 80% covered by water it seems fitting the Oceans should get at least one day a year for themselves!

29 Apr 2013

Snapshots from a Somerset weekend

Just wanted to share a few moments with you from my fabulous weekend visiting with US cousins in Somerset... My life is so hectic at the moment who knows when I'll be able to do a proper post!

So these are all taken with my iPhone (I'm writing this while on the train, will post it next time I get wifi access). Photos are (I can't write in between them when posting from phone):
  • In Montacute House with my cousins Mary and Kristy waiting for the wedding.
  • The church in Montacute where the religious service took place.
  • Visiting the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.
  • Goofing off (unavoidable!).
  • Saying goodbye to our National Trust owned Stembridge Cottage and Windmill (our lodgings for the weekend).
  • Hanging out with Queen Bess in St Mary Redcliff church in Bristol. Plus views of the church in and out. One of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen!
  • And me and Pol saying goodbye to Bristol as I write this on the airport shuttle... which has WiFi!!!

26 Apr 2013

On the road again!

I can't seem to stay put! I'm off for another long weekend, once again to a wedding! This time destination UK, and I'm not really going for the wedding, but to meet some friends-relatives from the US who are there for the wedding!

Confused yet? How 'bout this: these friends are almost relatives! Almost??? Well, they are my aunt's (as in my uncle's wife) sister Mary and niece Kristy! But Kristy and I have so much in common we've decided there must be a genetic connection in there somewhere (we're both redheads after all!), other than both us simply being cousins of our cousin James! :p

Oh, and we've never met in person, just on Facebook! I did meet her mom in Paris two years ago when I had a 2-day layover on my return from New Zealand! My aunt told me several of her siblings would be un Paris at the same time as me and I should try hooking up with them. Which resulted in a lovely afternoon and evening and a new friendship with Mary on FB! And a short while later with her daughter Kristy after frequently replying to each other's comments on Mary's FB wall :p

Now we get to meet in person for the first time and I'm really excited! It's also the first time I meet up in person with someone who had previously just been a cyberfriend (FB, blog etc...). When people look at me funny when I talk about someone as a "Facebook" or "Blogging" friend I try to explain that it's pretty much the equivalent of "pen pals" of old, but better 'cause the response time is shorter and we have the added benefit of sharing photos/videos/links... I love the Internet and social networking!!! :o)

I'm off! Hopefully my extremely hectic work schedule will lighten up soon and I'll be able to do some more regular blogging...

31 Mar 2013

Remembering a Polish Easter...

Originally posted April 13th 2009. I'm reposting this now because I think it will interest some of you who didn't read it back in the day! Happy Easter to all! :o)

All this Easter talk and reading (I've been visiting other blogs) has reminded me that I discovered some new (for me) Easter traditions when I was visiting friends on a wonderful trip to Poland several years ago and I'd like to share them (and some of my photos from the trip, click on them for bigger views) here with you.

Statue of Pope John Paul II in Warsaw

28 Mar 2013

Torrijas: French toast is a special Holy Week food in Spain???

Torrijas are a typical sweet in Spain during Holy Week. You see them on the menus of cafés or for sale in many bakeries. I bought a couple of slices the other day for my "merienda" (mid-afternoon snack) and boy were they yummy! But I got to wondering why on earth were they considered a Holy Week specialty??? I mean, torrijas are basically French toast made with baguette!!! (Note: in France they make the same thing and call it "pain perdu" or "lost bread", and as far as I know it's not a special Holy Week thing.) In my family French toast is breakfast and is valid all year round (unless we start worrying about calories and stuff, which we don't... which explains a lot!).

Delicious torrijas in my local bakery

27 Mar 2013

Holy Week again!

We're in the midst of Holy Week again, and in Spain Semana Santa = processions in almost every town and city across the country!!!

I missed out on my favourite procession this year, Palm Sunday, because I was out hiking (very cold and windy hike, but a fabulous outing! Will write about it asap). But because it was such a nice day when we got back into Alicante, a few of us didn't feel like heading home! So we wandered around downtown for a bit and popped into a place to have a merienda (snack). 2h later (lots of talking!) as I'm walking back to where I left the car I found I couldn't cross the Rambla because that evening's procession was underway!!! So I stayed and watched for a bit... and of course filmed it for you guys! ;o)

It's just one "paso" ("paso" = statue of a Saint, or the Virgin or Jesus on its throne, accompanied by the faithful and a marching band or two), I didn't stay around for any more (tired and in desperate need of a shower, lol!), but I thought you'd enjoy it! So here you have the Cofradía de San Pedro Apóstol, completing a loop through downtown (they had started off from the Cathedral and were only 2 blocks away from returning there). You can see members of the brotherhood wearing a medallion with their emblem, and three ladies carrying the symbols of St Peter (keys, fishing boat, net) on cushions.

I don't know if I'll be able to see any others this year... I wanted to last night but had to work late. I might talk with a friend about going to Elche on Sunday to see their Easter Sunday procession (is supposed to be beautiful), but we'll see. Anyhow, if you want to see what I wrote about other Semana Santa processions in the last couple of years follow these links:

And going through this I just realised I didn't write about the Procesión del Silencio in Elche last year!!! Well then, looks like I've got work to do this week! Hopefully I'll be able to make some time for that... Kind of depends on how many photos and video I took... :p

23 Mar 2013

Gorgeous hike up the Maigmó

Woah! Has it really been 4 1/2 months since I wrote a hiking post?! YIKES!!! 
It's not that I haven't done any hiking since then... it's that I didn't do any hiking in Nov-Dec (missed 2 hikes 'cause I was sick, another got rained out) and since Christmas I've been über-busy so haven't had time to edit the photos and write about the hikes! There's also the fact that the Christmas hike and January hike were kind of repeats, so I couldn't muster as much enthusiasm as usual to work on them... I'll get to it at some point ('cause the Christmas one was worth talking about!)

Anyhow, on to this hike! I'd like to get this post out today... 'cause tomorrow I'm heading out again and I don't them mixing up in my mind when I'm writing about them later! :p

So on February 24th we (the Centro Excursionista de Alicante) met up bright and early -as usual- at the Plaza de Toros in Alicante, piled into our cars and headed to a lonely road going from Agost to "Rincón Bello", near the "Vía Verde". Our starting point was at 493 metres above sea level (so ~ 1617 ft) and we were going to cover roughly 19km (~11.8mi) in a circular route that would take us up to the summit of the Maigmó (1296m ~ 4252ft above sea level). Now when I first heard about this hike I wasn't feeling too inspired, because I'd already climbed the Maigmó with the CEA last year in March. But Alberto assured me we were doing a completely different route, with the only thing in common with the previous hike being the actual summit (which we climbed up a different way!). Suddenly the outing was much more interesting!

Just after 9 a.m. we all gathered round Alberto at the starting point for our briefing. And boy was it COLD!!! Barely 5ºC (41ºF). And windy. Hats, gloves, scarves... everyone was bundled up, not a common sight in Alicante! :p

The morning light was gorgeous, and let me get some really nice shots along our trail.

Barranco de la Zarza with Maigmó in the background

13 Mar 2013

Habemus papam

First Jesuit Pope, first Latinamerican Pope (actually first non-European!) and first Pope Francis! I'm hoping this is a sign of more new things in the Church. In any case he has a kind face and a sense of humour! :o)

Watching all this live has been quite moving and thrilling!

24 Feb 2013

Rambling Oscar thoughts

Oscar, Oscar! What is it with this particular awards ceremony that so enthrals us each year? Makes even less sense for me to be obsessed with it, considering I'm a continent and an ocean away, haven't been able to see the ceremony live in years, and until a few years ago it was impossible for me to see all the candidates before the actual ceremony! I don't know... perhaps it's a residual from my childhood/adolescence when I did live in that hemisphere and enjoyed the show a few times with my family... Perhaps it's just another aspect of my obsession with the movies in general! Anyhow, it's always a lot of fun to try and guess who will take home the little gold man, and then to complain and grumble about how someone else was "robbed" each year! :p

I'm not equipped to really judge some categories (or don't have time this year to look into them in detail), and I haven't seen all the films... and so can only "judge" some. I managed to see all the BP nominees except Amour, couldn't find time to make it to the cinema this weekend! *sigh* I'd rather catch it later in French anyway (for some reason dubbing annoys me even more when the original language was French! :p ). In any case, based on those I have seen, 2012 was a really good year for the movies! Lots of really great stuff to choose from, and I'm glad the decision doesn't rest on my shoulders, in most of these categories I truly wouldn't know how to decide!!!
Drop a line in the comments and tell me how your predictions compare to mine (mine have an asterisk), or stop by again "the day after" to rejoice or bemoan the winners/losers! ;o)

Now, without further ado here are my thoughts on some of the contestants for this year's Oscars!  

23 Feb 2013

My First Geocaching Adventure!

For over a year now I've been following Kim's geocaching tales on her blog Snug Harbor Bay and thinking that it looked like a really fun activity to take up (the things Kim will do for a cache... crazy!)! Only problem: it requires the use of a GPS device and I didn't have one, nor was I going to invest in one just to try this out... Then I found out that smartphones have GPS capability and there's actually a Geocaching app that will guide you on your treasure hunt! But my poor 5 year-old Ericsson was definitely no smartphone... *sigh* So I waited, and continued reading Kim's stories, and waited... until last Christmas I finally got a new phone (the phone is dead, long live the iphone! What on earth did we do before cellphones? I don't remember!)!!! I gave myself some time to become familiar with my new phone, then created an account at geocaching.com (of course my name there is CrazyCris, what else would it be?!), downloaded the app and got ready to go Geocaching! I had to wait a couple of weekends for decent weather (what is it with this crazy wind we've been having for the past month?! weird!!!), but two weeks ago on Saturday I finally did it!!! I headed out to my favourite Alicante playground, the Cabo de las Huertas (a.k.a. "my" beach, of Alicante's various beach areas it's closest to home). Inspiration struck, so instead of narrating my adventure with photos... I'm going video! I hope you enjoy it! ;o)

Well, how'd you like it? A bit long perhaps... but I couldn't reduce the 20' I had filmed to less than 9' and still tell the story I wanted, believe me I tried! Definitely a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go out again and look for another cache! For starters I have to find a good cache to put this geocoin in so it can make its way "home" to Germany!

Oh! And guess what?! I was invited to tell the tale of this adventure over at cachecrazy.com (Thank you Bloodhounded!)! Go check out my post there and see what crazy adventures other geocachers have been having! ;o)

Very cool design work by Bloodhounded! :o)

Now remember... if this blog suddenly goes Geocaching crazy... it's all KIM's fault!!! ;o)

20 Feb 2013

Movies, movies and more movies!

Woah! Turns out I've seen quite a few movies in the past couple of weeks! Blame Oscar season... so many promising movies out all at once (after months of only so-so fare), I'm afraid I'm binging! No sign of it stopping either, still got a few more to see before the "big" night! :p

12 Feb 2013

Random Ramblings

  • I've gotten quite a few new visitors to the blog (WELCOME!!!)... all coming over for a visit from Snug Harbor Bay because my friend Kim wrote a lovely post about me yesterday!!! Fabulous surprise! (I thought you were just going to show off the hat and scarf Kim!) One of the things I like best about blogging is all the fabulous people I've been able to "meet" through our respective blog posts and comments. It's opened the world up for me and allowed me to make new friends in a fun way! I liken it to having pen pals back in the day (I tried once or twice, never stuck), except 100 times better! I hope some day to get to meet some of my "virtual" friends in the "real" world soon (Kim -> Spain + Italy for when???), but in the meantime it's wonderful hanging out with you guys online! :o)
  • For the past 36h the news has been all abuzz about the Pope's "retirement" (15' section in the news today at lunch!!!). I don't have an opinion either way, but I do seem to remember about 10 years ago people asking why Pope John Paul II didn't retire and hearing it said that popes couldn't retire! Guess they got it wrong... just 'cause no one's done it in 800 years doesn't mean it can't be done! Still, it's weird to think of a Pope retiring! But he sure looks feeble in the news images... can't be an easy "job".
  • Speaking of random news items, it turns out the Brits like to bury their Kings in car parks! lol! That was all over the news last week, did you guys hear about it? Talk about an archaeological treasure hunt... and find! Richard III remains "Crookback Dick" in my mind, not thanks to Shakespeare, but because of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Black Arrow"! That was my first intro to the King (and the War of the Roses). Fascinating (and bloody!) period of British history... Now I'm wondering: what kind of State Funeral will the British Crown give its newly found monarch? An Anglican service doesn't seem right considering he was Catholic... but I have trouble imagining the head of the Church of England presiding over a Catholic funeral service... Anyhow there's a really interesting post about the dig itself over on The History Girls, very good read!
  • I've tallied up quite a few movies these past couple of weeks (damn Oscar season!), have to prep a post on them... I'm only missing Amour to wrap up the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, will try to catch that this weekend. But I'm wondering whether or not to give The Master and Flight a go to get a look at their Oscar-nominated performances... neither movie really caught my attention, but I like to see as many of the major contenders as possible before the big night... Speaking of the Oscars, how ridiculous is it that Ben Affleck wasn't even nominated for Best Director considering he's winning just about every other "best director" award out there this season? He just got the BAFTA on Sunday! (bravo!)
  • *sigh* I was really hoping I'd be able to make a grand announcement about spending 6 months this summer working in Iceland... but I didn't get the job. Major bummer! Sticking with the English classes for a while longer (and every week hoping none of my students cancels on me). When is this stupid global crisis going to end and there be more opportunities for people with a biology/environmental background? Anybody know of a decent environmental education or conservation position out there? I love my students but I'm tired of teaching English!

8 Feb 2013

When a Christmas plant GROWS!

This one's for DJan! I told you I'd show you what a poinsettia looks like when it's BIG!!!
This one is growing in the garden next to the house of one of my students and I love seeing it whenever I go to teach a class! 😎

30 Jan 2013

Page vs Screen: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and the BBC

Ok, first of all this is NOT about the 1980s Civil War novel North and South brought to life on the small screen with Patrick Swayze as the lead. This North and South is over a century older! Written in 1855 by British author Elizabeth Gaskell (and originally published by Dickens in a weekly periodical), it's a social novel that showcases the relations between workers and their industrial masters in the fictional town of Milton in northern England (apparently inspired by Manchester where the author lived). These tense relations are seen through the eyes of the Hale family who have had to move there from Helstone in rural southern England after the father, a pastor, decides he must leave the Church of England as a matter of conscience. Following the advice of Mr Bell, a friend from his Oxford days, he moves to Milton with his wife and daughter and takes up teaching private students. It is quite a clash for the family, nowadays we'd call it culture shock. The peaceful, idyllic rural south has nothing in common with the grey, noisy, dirty northern city... even the people and their attitudes are quite different. Margaret makes friends with some of the workers and clashes with Mr John Thornton, master of Malborough Mills, who is also one of her father's students. Theirs is a clash worthy of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, but in this case they are both afflicted with both pride and prejudice and must overcome it before the story can come to a happy ending... ;o)

It's a story that fits well into the Industrial Revolution, a story of strife between classes (workers and masters, and the early unions and first strikes "The Union is a great power, the Union is our only power"). It does a good job of presenting the case both of the workers and the masters (dealing with the cheaper competition from America so they must lower their costs to remain competitive). As Mr Hale puts it:  "I meet many a working man. They have some dreadful tales and speak from the heart and have arguments for the strike which appear to me to be entirely logical. (...) But then our friend Thornton (...) he answers my questions and puts the other side so eloquently... I truly don't know what to think!" It also shows the difference in mentality between people from the southern rural counties and London society and the northern industrial cities.

Like most 19th century novels there are plentiful descriptions of places, people, background, society etc., and not that much dialogue. Much of that necessary information is given to us in the TV series either from the characters themselves during conversations, or in the form of letters between Margaret and her cousin Edith (whose wedding is the starting point of the story). Margaret's first letter to Edith serves as an introduction to what life is like in Milton, her father's teaching and students, it can sometimes be amusing when the difference between the "cheerful" tone of the letter is in contrast with the darker reality of what's happening on screen! We get more "exposition" during a dinner among the various "masters" and Mr Hale which illustrates Thornton's influence among his equals, and discussions of the situation of the workers and working conditions in the cotton mills.

Although we get some of Margaret's inner thoughts via those letters (and a few conversations), we're missing most of Thornton's thoughts on Margaret, which in the novel illustrate how he admires her from the start (despite an inauspicious beginning in which he finds her "haughty") and how his feelings develop, and also his sense of inferiority (due to a lack of education, his status as he's in trade, not a "gentleman") and being unworthy of her. But Richard Armitage does an excellent job conveying his fascination with her and evolving feelings with the tone of his voice and his looks and glances and his facial expressions. The gorgeous soundtrack also helps... But because of this we miss out on why a key moment (Leonards' death and Margaret's lies to a police officer) disturbs Thornton so much. In the book it's clear he believes so deeply in her honourable and truthful nature that he believes she lied to cover up for a gentleman (with whom he saw her) who is a bad influence on her, so the belief hat she is being led astray adds to his jealousy.

Ok, starting here I'm going to go into a more detailed comparison of book and series... so if you want to avoid spoilers you should stop reading! Instead go download the book for free from Project Gutenberg, read it, then watch the series, and come back and tell me what you think! ;o)

22 Jan 2013

Violent Movie Madness

So, in the past 10 days I've been to the cinema three times with my dad (yes, I know it's a lot... but it's Oscar season!), and we've ended up watching some pretty violent films (two are Oscar nominated)... Although to be fair I really wanted to watch the third tonight instead of Lincoln (which will be next week) just so I could round out the three and write this post! :p

All three were violent in different ways, some parts more disturbing than others and for different reasons... And they've helped me realise that violence in the movies doesn't disturb me as much as it used to! Perhaps it's because more films have become more violent... or I've just been able to avoid the truly gory ones... or I'm able to distinguish "real" violence from the Hollywood special effects variety. In any case, each of these films did have moments that made me feel truly uncomfortable with the violence, and I'd say it was only truly "justifiable" in the first one.

19 Jan 2013

Musical ode to an octopod

Another little musical moment... this one I discovered via i09, a homage to an inquisitive octopus! I dare you not to smile! ;o)

17 Jan 2013

Joyous Classical Flashmob

I don't know if I've shared this one with you guys before... it's 6 months old. But a friend just linked to it on Facebook and I was reminded of how much I enjoyed it... so here you go! Done in a small town just next to Barcelona, organised by the local bank (now a biggie in the country) to celebrate its 130th anniversary.

16 Jan 2013

Alicante tumbleweed!

One of the weirdest things I've ever seen in Alicante - and see almost every year - is the local equivalent of tumbleweed rolling down the streets on a windy day! And today's example might be the biggest I've ever seen! Just weird...

9 Jan 2013

Here comes the sun...

Just wanted to share this original Flashmob from an Unemployment Office somewhere in Spain (could be Madrid)...

Sunny day in Alicante today, lots of people need more Sun in their lives these days! Here's to them, here's to us.

6 Jan 2013

Movie Magic: Les Misérables

So Les Misérables gets to be my first movie of 2013. It moved me to tears several times and had me in awe at the amazing talent of several of the actors involved! I knew Hugh Jackman could sing, but I had no idea he could sing like that, while acting so well that his Jean Valjean truly impressed me! (will someone just give him the Oscar already?!) And what about Anne Hathaway?! Woah!!! That girl can SING! It's a good (?) thing her role isn't any bigger, or she'd steal the show from Hugh Jackman! (ditto on the Oscar comment)

4 Jan 2013

Delightful Christmas surprise!

Yesterday the mailman rang my doorbell and delivered a lovely surprise!

Check out what was inside!!!

2 Jan 2013

This is in the middle of nowhere???

Well, almost. This shot is of the inner courtyard of a Renaissance castle on a hill overlooking the town of Calahorra, about 30-40' away from Granada. The others are the exterior, was rushed but the others to go inside so couldn't get a "perfect" shot, but it will give you an idea...