Sunday, August 31, 2003

we have stabilimentum

at the risk of turning into a spider blog, i must point out that i'm not the only one fascinated with spiders. see also this post.

Lost books. Lost books can be found in used paperback book stores. Find where those bastions of dusty books with wrinkled spines are in your region - they are a pot of gold at the end of the book search line. Lost Books can also be found in attics, at yard sales, and sometimes in specialty book stores ... It is one of those books endowed with the rare quality that, when mentioned in conversation, elicits two responses. Either the other person has never heard of it or they cannot stop talking about it. Such conversational phenomenon are giant X's on the treasure maps to the land of lost books.

Friday, August 29, 2003

a strangely biological protest

I usually stay away from political stuff, but this is too close to home to resist. From Yossi Lemel, Israeli Poster Artist

via Geisha Asobi

Thursday, August 28, 2003


So I was browsing through the Israel section of the Trek Earth website which I saw through Mirabilis' post and stumbled upon a wedding that I wrote about a month or so back.

Click here for a larger image.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Spiders in history: "Approximately 3060 years ago David was being pursued by King Saul when he hid in a cave near Jerusalem. A spider made its web across the opening. When Saul saw the web, he called his men away, saying that it was useless to search the cave because the web showed that no one could have entered. So David's life was saved and he lived on to become King of Israel. "

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The poems of Cavafy:


Like beautiful bodies of the dead who had not grown old
and they shut them, with tears, in a magnificent mausoleum,
with roses at the head and jasmine at the feet --
this is what desires resemble that have passed
without fulfillment; with none of them having achieved
a night of sensual delight, or a bright morning."

more about cavafy here

Monday, August 25, 2003

Remembering the rain: "On the 31 of October 2002 it rained in Sde Boker"
from Moran Levy's homepage.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Mia's wedding- a WordSnap

note: a WordSnap is an invention of mine (I hope) where I describe a photograph but the description extends beyond the frames in both time and space

In the background are the hills of Karmiel, the beautiful hearthland of Israel, such views can only be paid for with 5 hrs travel in a minibus, but once here, effortlessly the soul awakens again, looking at valleys deepening into the distance as the sun pours its heat onto the grape-vine covered shelter we stand under. . In the foreground is the Hupah, just off the steady slope, and Mia, Shai and their parents are standing there facing us, their backs to the scenery. The rabbi has a Blue and white Kippa, which means something, I know but I've forgotten it. Mia is dressed like a princess- the only thing missing is a tiara - and she keeps fighting the wind for control of her veil, and which she traps finally. Shai's shifting his weight from foot to foot, and the Rabbi is reciting the words in a steady low voice, shunning the microphone that a member of the band brought for him. The band-an Irish band- is waiting for their moment:a violinist, a flautist, two guitarists- waiting to jump into the wedding song as soon as the cup has been smashed. Just in front of the Hupah is the young ex-Peruvian photographer, looking absurdly young and self assured, with two imposing cameras dangling from her neck, as she prowls around, crouching now and then, seeking to avoid the sun in her lens, and she is surefooted of her place- no matter who's view of the ceremony is blocked, it is her vision that remains -forever etched in acid. Among the guests beside me are the friends of Mia, who (because of her recent arrival in Israel) are part of the family- the bride's side. A girl off the frame is waiting to clap at every opportunity but this is a different wedding- very laid back, elegant, a ceremony more than a party, and the half hearted claps disturb the peace of the moment rather than enhance it. A member of the catering crew, a girl who will ask me in Arabic if I want coffee , mistaking my Indian Kurta for an arabic costume, is standing just off the frame as well, enjoying a moment's rest before the work starts. It's a beautiful day and though the end of the ceremony is signaled by strains of music, the promise of a good meal and casual conversation on the many divans lying around keeps us there till the end, even though we have many miles to go to reach the desert.

Friday, August 22, 2003

How to Create a Golem From the Comfort of Home (via incoming signals)

Thursday, August 21, 2003

bridges of st.petersburg

I was looking for an image of the bridges to post here and I found a website that said "You have not really seen St. Petersburg if you have not gathered with the crowds on the riverbanks on a late summer evening to watch the Palace Bridge open to let ships pass through". Well all that's fine and dandy, but I was staying on the other side of the bridge on an island called Vasilevsky island. That meant that the down town area where all the attractions and all the action happens are on the wrong side of the bridge. Which meant that if you are still on the mainland after 1 AM there is essentially no way to get back to the hostel. I suppose the situation would be different in winter when the river Neva freezes over and one can technically amble across, but in summer, its just a very nice way to be stranded till dawn breaks and the city starts coming alive again. I was staying at a hostel that was very popular with students from all over the world - it was a strangely familiar situation, it being the same here in Sede Boqer- to be in a place where every second person speaks a different language-and everyone feels the instant bond of being foreign. Most of the students had come there to study Russian literature in the original and it was fun to watch all these people manage to have casual conversation in Russian and enjoying it while I was fumbling desperately with the poor phrasebook. I even met an Israeli who had come there to study something or the other and it was quite nice to hear Hebrew spoken. He was just leaving one night to visit a synagogue that is also on the mainland. I spoke to a lot of the students and invariably when I ask them about how life in Russia was, at some time or the other , they would complain about the bridges. The sun used to set around 11 PM and before you know it, it's time to scurry back across the bridge. One night I decided that I must see the bridges open at least once, and deliberately got myself stranded on the mainland, but the thrill of seeing ghostly ships slide past the river palled soon, and I can affirm that as the night gets darker, even the main street of the city gets just a little bit too creepy for comfort.

"Cours primaire": - a nice story about the value of being bilingual.

Wooden Mirror"The Wooden Mirror project is an art installation, and as such the goals leading to its creation are a bit vague. The piece explores the line between analog and digital. In the essence of the piece is the notion of inflicting digital order on a material that is as analog as it gets - wood. I was hoping to take the computational power of a computer and video camera , and seamlessly integrate them into the physicality warmth and beauty of a wooden mirror. The piece reflects any object or person in front of it by organizing the wooden pieces." via dublog

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

only in israel

It's always a puzzler, deciding what present to buy for a wedding but this site has a quick and easy solution. In Israel, people usually give a gift of money to the couple and since it's such a pain to decide how much is okay, this site asks you a series of questions such as how close you are to the couple, the location of the wedding, the time of the year, the day of the week and others to determine the exact amount you can get away with. The site is in Hebrew, but the concept is startling nevertheless.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Stations of the Cross, Jerusalem:QTVR panorama views of the Stations of the Cross, Jerusalem (the Via Dolorosa and The Holy Sepulchre)

Monday, August 18, 2003

Georgette Heyer

It was at Petrodvorets that I finally realised why every touristy palace and the museums were so familiar. I was walking along the gardens and came across a couple of Russians decked up in regency outfits. They looked so out of place among the crowds of tourists but strangely enough looked perfectly in place amidst the grandeur of the place. They were standing in certain corners waiting for tourists, to trap them into posing for photographs with them for a fee, of course. I watched them out of the corner of my eye for quite some time, and later as I saw a couple of gorgeously dressed women gently stroll past the fountains, I realised why the Victorian women took so much obsessive care with their costumes: it makes them look like goddesses. I have seen regency outfits many times on TV or in movies, but there is nothing to beat the live flesh and blood version. It's enough to make anybody want to take a fancy bow just for the honour of kissing a hand. And then it all came back- the incessant sense of familiarity. I have been fed a steady diet of Georgette Heyer's books all through my early reading period and must admit that this is the only sort of romance books that I have been able to read, enough to recommend to others. My neighbour was a hardcore addict and had an almost complete collection of Heyers and I think I've managed to read every one of them. Heyer wove mysteries into her regency romances, and filled them with humour and intrigue and above all promised a good read. In the museums in St. Petersburg, I kept coming across things like carriages and costumes- the very vocabulary of which I first heard about through Heyer. Austen may have the name but Heyer was the one who made the Victorian world come alive to me.

The art of Siona Benjamin

"I am a Sephardic Jew from India, my ancestors came from the Middle East (and perhaps from Spain) centuries ago.  Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, having been educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools and now living in America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived. " (via Kesher Talk)

Sunday, August 17, 2003

The Insects of M.C.Escher: "Born June 7, 1898, Escher was a self proclaimed graphic artist and self denounced studio artist. He became fascinated with the geometric processes of filling the plain (tessellation) and his imagery took a biased towards asymmetrical natural forms of which insects were often his subject matter. He made the comment that insects are generally best recognized from above; his prints reflecting this belief" Thanks to nancy (via mirabilis)

Saturday, August 16, 2003


One of the more exciting things in the spider conference was the paleontology section (no groaning). Apparently, no other conference ever covered fossil spiders before, mostly because fossil spiders are so darn hard to find. And that's because spiders have a soft body and get completely pulverised in the normal fossilization process. However, the few fossils found have been of spiders that got trapped in resin of trees and then as the resin hardens over millions of years it becomes amber. I have always liked amber and it was a fascinating series of discussions on spiders in amber. Samuel Zschokke of Switzerland had a very interesting talk about spider webs that had been embedded in amber. Coincidentally enough, St. Petersburg is also well known for amber. One of the palaces built by Catherine the great had a room called the Amber room which had walls inlaid with surprise, surprise, Amber. I couldn't visit it but I was told that it was "incredibly gaudy". The palace itself was destroyed and then recreated, like so many of the buildings in the city. Anyway, after the conference, I went souvenier hunting and was immediately struck by the vast quantities of amber jewellery that could be bought at all kinds of shops, ranging from rings to necklaces- you name it. Some of them were obvious fakes: like the piece that had a seahorse and a one that had a starfish in it (can't imagine these clambering up pine trees). So I asked one of the guys how to differentiate between real and fake amber and he said that the best non destructive method is to immerse the piece in a solution of salt water. If its real, it floats. I did look at the jewellery more closely after that and found a couple of pieces with spiders in them and was so tempted to buy them, but then one can never be sure of not ending up with a piece of plastic with a squashed spider.
For a good list of amber related internet links, click here.

Friday, August 15, 2003

st. petersburg

I am so used to stretching out events in my posts that now I have a serious problem in describing those two weeks in St. Petersburg. It was filled with magic and light and trying to condense my experiences into neat post sized segments would be criminal. So I will stay true to the name of this blog and use these experiences as further points of deparure, a second level if you will.

But first a couple of sites with panaromic views of the city. Here's one of St. Petersburg in the 1820s. I think that the only way to even attempt to capture the beauty of the buildings and the amazing views of the river Neva is through panoramic photography. But I have still to explore online St. Petersburg and maybe some images that do justice to the place will turn up.

So here is a list to start my impressions of the city:
1. Culture clash: startlingly old cars ply the roads along with modern ones
2. Linked buildings with small tunnels acting as alleyways
3. Tourist central: I heard a new language at every turn
4. Mobile toilets: loos on buses. don't know why but maybe it's the fashion now
5. Obsession with Peter the Great. seriously. St Petersburg sells itself and its founder at every corner.
6. Sentences from locals containing the keywords "In the soviet time it used to be......but now it is......". The Soviet influence is almost all but unseen in the center but buildings decorated with Soviet motifs still stand as one moves further away from the river.
7. Coffee is more expensive than beer.
8. Vegetarianism is considered a disease. ok maybe I'm exaggerating a wee bit but one gets pretty tired of salads after a while.
9. Drawbridges
This requires a post of its own but I will just include a mini poem now:
Like the ships wait
for the bridges to open
We wait for them to close

10. must...speak...russian...(just saying the word doesn't help, one must also use the correct pronunciation, else it fails)

Thursday, August 14, 2003

a self link

An article of mine on mobbing in birds got published in an Indian newspaper.