Archive for December, 2011

Happy New Year

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Arizona - not sure what this was supposed to achieve

Happy 2012 from Arizona, where I am experiencing a family holiday in the desert.

What is happening in this picture? Party or headache?

[Can someone please explain why they do this to the cacti? It seems to have a function. Beyond entertainment.]

Best decoration of the 2011 holiday season – Xmas tree of books at Vancouver Art Gallery

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

“Xmas greadings,” via Michael Turner’s site websit. It’s Vancouver Art Gallery librarian Cheryl Siegel’s annual Xmas tree.

Most confusing Christmas decoration of the 2011 season

Monday, December 26th, 2011


Santa Nutcracker Christian Puppet Theatre

Please take a number and ponder how The Nutcracker—you remember, that’s the story of a seven-headed Mouse King and a kingdom of dolls who come magically alive, among other pagan details—is actually a Christian-run story secretly enacted by a Jesus-like white Santa Claus operating marionettes hung from gold crosses.

Wanted to steal the tree to save it from further embarrassment.

Santa Nutcracker Christian Puppet Theatre

Oldest known Neanderthal house found in Ukraine – made from woolly mammoth bones

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Why do discoveries of ancient houses make me so happy? A 44,000 year old Neanderthal bone house has been found near Moldova in Eastern Ukraine. It’s a nearly circular structure made from woolly mammoth bone, and it’s 26 feet wide at its widest point – that’s pretty substantial, the same width as the little church I live in. The bone house is delicately decorated with carvings and ochre pigments. 25 hearths were unearthed inside, suggesting it was inhabited over a long period of time. Now it appears Neanderthals weren’t really the stupid “cavemen” we thought they were: evidence is growing that they cooked vegetables, buried their dead, produced jewelry and sophisticated tool sets, and probably had language. They ostensibly disappeared just 10,000 yeas after modern man arrived in Europe, but it seems likely that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred. More on that here.

The use of bone is likely due to its availability as well as to a scarcity of wood. There are no photographs of the dig site yet. By the way, the artist’s rendering above clearly shows a modern human, not a Neanderthal. Nice furs. Via the Telegraph and Digital Journal.

“Laëtitia Demay, an archaeologist who led the research, said: “It appears that Neanderthals were the oldest known humans who used mammoth bones to build a dwelling structure.

“This mammoth bone structure could be described as the basement of a wooden cover or as a windscreen.

“Neanderthals purposely chose large bones of the largest available mammal, the woolly mammoth, to build a structure.

“The mammoth bones have been deliberately selected – long and flat bones, tusks and connected vertebrae – and were circularly arranged.

“The use of bones as building elements can be appreciated as anticipation of climatic variations. Under a cold climate in an open environment, the lack of wood led humans to use bones to build protections against the wind.”

The bone structure … was constructed of 116 large bones including mammoth skulls, jaws, 14 tusks and leg bones.”

By the way, this is by no means the oldest hominid-built structure in the world. A simple wooden structure found outside Tokyo was built 500,000 years ago by Homo Erectus.

“It consists of what appear to be 10 post holes, forming two irregular pentagons which may be the remains of two huts. Thirty stone tools were also found scattered around the site.”

This post brought to you by the random Archaeology Enthusiasts service of this blog.


NYC haiku traffic signs

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

New York City’s Dept of Transportation commissioned artist James Morse to produce these lateral, funny, thought-provoking haiku signs. They are designed to alert pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to the unexpected on the road. Beautiful, genius, and amusing. Morse was already known for his guerrilla haikus installed in urban public space. Can’t believe he’s called Morse. Thanks to Bing Thom Architects for bringing this to my attention. Via NPR. More on James Morse here.

We could use more consultation and collaboration with artists in Vancouver. I don’t mean branders and commercial designers, either, not that they can’t be good. It’s just that visual artists bring something quite different. Imagine a world where your every move matters. Welcome to that world.


Aalto chair

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Most people think of eco-compatibility in terms of recycling. But even with recycling, the earth’s resources aren’t nearly sufficient to allow the bulk of the planet’s population to consume at the levels we do in the developed world. If we are ever to allow the entire population to reach our standard of living, we have to learn to make do with less.
Gabriele Centazzo, Founder and Designer, Valcucine.

For those who who must buy things for the winter holidays, and can afford to, why not buy what is truly functional, beautiful and well-constructed. We should be buying fewer and better things, and whenever we can, we should be buying older things that were built to last. All that chacha and gadgetry we’re buying is very hard on the planet. Photo of chair by Alvar Aalto from Atelier Journal.