Archives for May, 2011

I Hate the Great Firewall

Here’s just short note to tell you, Dear Reader, that the Great Firewall of China is fucking annoying. I am unable to access Twitter, Facebook, any Blogspot blog and often most of Google’s services including Gmail. Meanwhile, the Chinese populace is so closely keyed in to what’s happening in the West that girls in remote…

Len Fisher is an Australian physicist based in England. He’s also a foodie involved in molecular gastronomy. In 2002 he published an essay collection on the UK market, The Science of Everyday Life, which has now been re-issued for US readers. Before looking at the book’s contents I have to comment on how Fisher’s US…

I’ve criticised Western museums for buying or accepting as gifts looted Chinese antiquities. This practice, in my opinion, stems from an outdated and irresponsible fine arts perspective where the exact provenance of a museum piece is not very important. When you’re dealing with anonymous prehistoric or early historic art, you can’t attribute it to any…

Chinese tourist sites follow a set of conventions that seem to go back hundreds or thousands of years, far into a past when tourism, as we understand it, did not yet exist. Essentially we’re dealing with named and inscribed sites. I have visited many in my Chinese travels, but since I can’t read the language…

Tombs and Opium in Qingtian

My mother-in-law grew up in the mountains near Fushan in the prefecture of Qingtian (pronounced CHING-tien), inland Zhejiang province. Though the prefecture’s name means “Green Field”, it’s pretty poor and has been a major emigration area for decades. The owners and staff of many or most Chinese restaurants in Sweden are from Qingtian. Yesterday we…

On the flight from Amsterdam to Hangzhou Saturday, I observed some interesting behaviour on the part of my Chinese co-travellers. After the main meal, the stewardesses went around hawking tax-free goods. At this time, a bunch of people stood up and formed a large prattling group in the aisles toward the rear of the plane…

Marabouts are West African con men & fortune tellers who market their services in Europe with little flyers printed on coloured paper. In France, there’s an ongoing collectors’ craze for these notes. I found one under my windshield wiper the other day. I translate: Mr Seeki Fortune teller, international marabout Born with spiritual power. I…

Here’s a fun find, courtesy of my buddy Claes Pettersson. As detailed on Jönköping County Museum’s blog, a funny little cast-brass trinket came to light during fieldwork at Odensjö (“Odin’s Lake”), where recently a very fine Roman era weapon burial has also been unearthed. From a functional point of view it’s hard to say what…

I’ve reported before [1 - 2] on the on-going discoveries in the Tjust area of NE Småland province. Here Joakim Goldhahn is employing the country’s best rock-art surveyors to work through an area that is turning out to be extraordinarily rich and diverse in Bronze Age petroglyphs. These years will be remembered as a time…

What Makes High Elves High?

One of the stranger concepts in Tolkien’s writings is that of “High Elves”. Why are these elves high? It has nothing to do with drugs, though in the Tolkien Society we used to joke about them smoking lembas. And it has nothing to do with stature, though nobility and body height go together in Tolkien,…