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  • 'In the 1980s video cassette technology made it possible for “mobile cinema” operators in Ghana to travel from town to town and village to village creating temporary cinemas. The touring film group would create a theatre by hooking up a TV and VCR onto a portable generator and playing the films for the people to see.

    In order to promote these showings, artists were hired to paint large posters of the films (usually on used canvas flour sacks). The artists were given the artistic freedom to paint the posters as they desired – often adding elements that weren’t in the actual films, or without even having seen the movies.'

    (del.icio.us tags: Ghana Africa film posters )
  • More amusing cover-design madness from a POD company that does overpriced editions of books that are out of copyright.
    (del.icio.us tags: books covers )

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  • ‘You’ve just found the place where you can actually
    “Listen to Medicine for Better Health”

    After years of research and development, we have perfected the process of capturing the precise energetic patterns, or vibrational signatures, of homeopathic remedies, herbs, supplements, and even medications.

    So why is this such a BIG DEAL?

    Because listening to the sound of a homeopathic remedy will produce
    the exact same effect as ingesting the original physical substance.

    Imagine how great it would be if you could listen to a sound for a few minutes, and your headache disappears, your acid reflux vanishes, or your allergy symptoms go away, and WITHOUT SIDE EFFECTS!

    Is this possible?
    ABSOLUTELY YES!’

    (del.icio.us tags: homeopathy quackery )

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Equal to the Earth by Jee Leong Koh

I know Jee on the internet — originally via PFFA, the online poetry forum, but also now through his blog, Song of a Reformed Headhunter — so I already knew I liked his poems. And as a bonus, Equal to the Earth serves as my book from Singapore for the Read The World challenge.

Jee is, to quote the blurb on Lulu, ‘a gay poet born and bred in Singapore, educated at Oxford, now living and teaching in New York.’ Which gives you an idea of some of the major themes: ethnicity, sexuality, the immigrant experience and so on. But that list of topics sounds worryingly like the poems might be painfully earnest, which they are not; they have a delicacy of touch, both in handling the material and the verse.

I’ve read quite a lot of them before, sometimes I think in earlier versions, but it was a pleasure to sit down and revisit them.

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The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic

As part of a joint Anglo-American project with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Old Vic is currently running two plays in parallel with the same cast in both: The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard. It’s a fairly starry enterprise, directed by Sam Mendes, with acting from Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack, Ethan Hawke and so on; even the text of the Cherry Orchard is a new translation by Tom Stoppard.

I’d never actually seen or read The Cherry Orchard — or indeed any other Chekhov; quite a few of my most embarrassing cultural ignorances are related to drama — so it was interesting to go to it without any very specific preconceptions. Would I have guessed from watching it that it was one of the most-performed classics by one of the great dramatists? Short answer: um, no, but I don’t necessarily blame that on the play.

I do think the play feels quite dated. In one sense, of course, as a Russian play from 1904, it was dated pretty rapidly by events. The central social dynamic of the play, of a declining aristocracy and a rising merchant class, seems trivial compared to the changes brought by the Revolution. But more generally — stylistically, I guess — it feels like a bit of a period piece. It should not, I suppose, come as a surprise that a play which is over a hundred years old feels, um, old, and I’m quite certain that it will have aged better than most of its contemporaries, but there you go.

But I don’t think it was helped by the production, which also felt a bit old-fashioned but has less excuse for it. There were a few too many pregnant pauses, some slightly manipulative atmospheric musical effects, and a general sense of actors struggling to bring the material to life. I’m sure they’re all talented actors — my sister saw the other production, The Winter’s Tale, and said it was brilliant — but it all felt a bit self-conscious. Maybe they were just having a bad day.

» Obviously the photo doesn’t have much connection to Chekhov, I just thought it was cute. ezra-cherries-driveway is © Jeremy Hiebert and used under a CC by-nc licence.

The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

The Earth: An Intimate History is big, fat (480 page) book about geology. Richard Fortey writes extremely well and it’s an impressive attempt to make a fairly dense subject exciting.

I have to admit though I nearly didn’t finish it; by about halfway though I’d had about as much as I could take of schist, gneiss, nappes and the endless litany of different places, geological periods and minerals that every new page seemed to require. So I put it down for a few weeks.

But eventually I built up the willpower to finish it off, and I’m glad I did; there’s plenty of interesting stuff in there, like the fact that the rocks of England and Scotland were formed on different sides of the Atlantic — or at least a previous ocean that lay between previous versions of Europe and America. Or the fact that in university laboratories, geologists have built vast machines that can squeeze minute samples of rock to the point where they mimic the temperatures and pressures found hundreds of kilometres below the earth’s surface.

» The Grand Canyon is possibly a rather unoriginal choice of photo to illustrate geology, but wotthehell, it’s relevant and looks spectacular. Couleurs de la Terre / Colours of the Earth is © Olibac and used under a CC by-nc-nd license.

New new cat news

A second new cat, to keep Dolly company; introducing Oscar:

Oscar

The company-keeping theory isn’t actually working very well at the moment — there’s a lot of hissing and growling going on — but hopefully they’ll get used to each other soon enough.

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