Thursday, May 29, 2014

Transformations. From a sculpture to a selfie.

 In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life.

In 1505 Du Pré Antoine Vérard made a woodcut of Pygmalion and his sculpture.

Ovid retold the myth in 5 AD in his collection of books Metamorphoses or "Books of Transformations". 

Metamorphōseōn libri reprint of 1556.

The general idea of transformation of that myth was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights. W. S. Gilbert wrote a successful play based on the story called Pygmalion and Galatea (1871).

Gilbert's play opened at the Haymarket Theatre in London on 9 December 1871.
It ran for a very successful 184 performances.

George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) also wrote his version of Pygmalion, an operetta - which formed the basis of the famous musical and film My Fair Lady.

Shaw's Pygmalion was published in 1910.

My Fair Lady, the film, depicts arrogant phonetics professor Henry Higgins as he wagers that he can transform a flower girl Eliza Doolittle and turn her Cockney accent into a proper English one, thereby making her presentable in high society of Edwardian London.

The original Broadway poster 1956.

The Warner Bros film was released in 1964 with a $17 million budget.

A 2014 comedy series, Selfie, is a modern adaptation of this play, will debut in ABC's fall line up. It features Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley, a recently dumped and viral sensation socialite that after being humiliated across the web, wishes to turn her life around, with the help of her arrogant co-worker and marketing specialist, Henry.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why doesn't cream ever hit the fan? Or does it?

I knew about just being down sometimes, and I’ve experienced unintended consequences, but up until the past few months, I have only chuckled about Sod’s and Murphy's laws. But that was before I sat foot on Danish territory.

Sod's law is similar to, but broader and more extensive than, Murphy's law which states that "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong". Sod's law as the axiom that refers to "if something can go wrong, it will" and often at "the worst possible time".
The phrase is seemingly derived, at least in part, from the colloquialism an "unlucky sod"; a term for someone who has had some bad unlucky experience, and is usually used as a sympathetic reference to the person: in this case ME!

During my preparations for Denmark, I thought that I covered all the bases, then the incomprehensible happened, and something, actually much more than something, went wrong.

I arrived on 6 December in the midst of hurricane/cyclone Xaver. Its strength surpassed expectations. Heavy snowfall and winds of 140 km/h were howling over the country. Eighteen people died. And I spend a weekend in a foreign city. Isolated and with no idea if it was safe to venture out of doors to set off on foot to find a food store. After a long day looking at the snow and wind though my roof-top studio, few things are as comforting as devouring a warm meal. During the weekend in the unfamiliar cold climate, eating not only satisfied my hunger, and kept me warm but also comforted me.  

During the first three weeks in Denmark, I moved three times: from Copenhagen to Gentofte and back to Copenhagen. With all my belongings. On foot.
and then

Instead of opening a bank-account on the day I arrived (as urged by all the partners and preferred by myself), only after extreme effort and even more frustration and much more tears of desperation, I eventually managed to open a bank account at Danske Bank. After three months. And only then was I entitled to receive my first remuneration. Banking charges from Nedbank and using my investments and savings to survive, was never part of the agreement. And it was costly. And nerve-wrecking. And not refundable.
and then

Due to the fashionable, but often foolish practices of restructuring and transformation, neither of my two partnering institution’s International Offices found he resources (mainly time and interest) to deliver the essential support as agreed on in the exchange contract.
and then

And then there was the Airport bus driver that left without me (after I waited 90 minutes at the bus stop). I missed all four consecutive flights on that day. However the cherry on the cupcake was when my funding agent tried to punish me by preventing me to make use of the travel-insurance, and insisted that I pay for the re-booked tickets myself! The project coordinator was still pondering on mean and malicious ideas, when I had a wonderful cup of tea on African soil!
and then

One month without internet at my studio-home was challenging; and expensive: my family and friends - who was my only support back home - was not accessible. I paid for every byte I was NOT provided with. 
and then

At one stage the International Housing Office handed me over to debt collecting: after I paid the required R12 000 deposit for my room. I was out of harm's way only after I paid an additional deposit of R12 000. And then the office refunded me with R12 000. Some things are just not meant to be understood.
and then
I travelled 70 000 km within 7 weeks, I ended up in an airport clinic because of exhaustion. I went through baggage claim, passport control and customs via a wheel chair, without remembering any of it.
and then
The Danish Embassy issued me with a working permit for 11 months, but with a Schengen visa for only 5 months. I was in transit on Frankfort airport when my visa expired . . .
and then

Although I was doubled insured, I did not managed to access medical treatment in Denmark: I just could not got pass the Danish answering machines on the doctors’ appointment phones lines. And once when I did managed to make an appointment, I arrived at a locked consulting room door because my doctor went on an unplanned roadtrip – after I waited 6 weeks for that appointment. The alternative was privately paid medical treatment for the neglected Tracheitis in South Africa.
and then
And then the final challenge was when my fellowship was cancelled because I presented a research paper in Adelaide, Australia - for which I got approval by all the parties involved. I was penalised for an achievement! Sue Wright, my Danish mentor opposed the decision, however, I decided to keep the door that the European Union slammed in my face, closed.  Sue immediately offered me fellowships via other funding partners, which I greatly appreciate and will consider at a later stage, because for now, I am treasuring the African humanness and can-do approach.
 and that's why
And I still don't believe that Sod and Murphy had laws: all the challenges is components of exciting times with extreme learning curves.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Den Gamle By

Den Gamle By or The Old Town was founded in 1909 as the world's first open-air museum of urban history and culture. You will find it in Vijborgvej, adjacent to the Aarhus Botanical Garden.

Seventy-five historical houses from all over Denmark shape the contours of a Danish town as it might have looked in Hans Christian Andersen's days, with streets, shops, yards, homes and workshops.

Together with more than 3 million visitors over the course of the last 10 years, you can meet the people and characters of the past, experience life as it was in their livingrooms and kitchens; and smell the flowers right in their own gardens.

You will be able to join in some of the experiences through Den Gamle By's facebook page:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The greatest fossilist and the greatest fossil.

The as-yet unnamed behemoth evidently stood 7 stories tall and weighed as much as 77 tons.

One of its thigh-bones is longer than most humans, as proved by these pictures.


Based on interpretation of the size, and comparison with other diplodocids, scientists suspect the latest-found animal weighed about 77,000 kilos, or 77 tons. The T-rex, for comparison, is believed to have averaged some 7 tons.
If we say the average human weight is (say) 70 kilos, this newly-found dino weighed as much as 1,100 people. With its neck (and rather small head) upright, say the scientists, it was around 7 stories tall.

What would Mary have said?!

Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for important findings she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds. Mary Anning lived through a life of privation and hardship to become what one source called "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew."

She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
Just about every English speaker over the age of 5 knows at least the first line of Terry Sullivan’s 1908 tongue twister. Much less known, sadly, is the woman behind the rhyme. Mary began collecting shells and fossils when she was a small child.

Her work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. However, she was denied the formal recognition of the 19th-century British scientific community, largely because of her gender and social class.

After her death in 1847, her unusual life story attracted increasing interest. In 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Mary in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Today, on her 215th birthday, Google honours her with an international commemoration.

Mary Anning: Google doodle celebrates the invisible woman of science.

Letter and drawing from Mary Anning announcing the discovery of a fossil animal now known as Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, 26 December 1823.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Disappears . . leaving behind only its smile.

Dear colleague and friend Naomi Haupt De Valdoleiros gave me two Lesley Anne Ivory fine bone china mugs to bring to Denmark supporting me for leaving my dear cat in South Africa.

These mugs were made in England and the art were part of a wonderful collection.

My dear Burmese Blue cat, KoningKat, is true to its breed in that she is an exotic creature with a smooth, smoky-coloured coat and large gold eyes, her natural predilection is for the indoors, she is very healthy, active and a very vocal cat.

However, for the rest, she is not a typical Burmese cat: she possess a natural affinity for men (even though I am buying the Friskies!). She is not friendly with both children and dogs. Moreover, this cat's as a breed, it is not comfortable with car trips. To say that she hates any other animal and car trips is gross an understatement.

However, this breed has been closely scrutinized in the past due to its origins. These cats are an offshoot of Siamese cats in Thailand and were originally only bred to be a dark brown or sable colour. The blue Burmese cat did not appear until much later around 1955.

The term "blue" can be a bit misleading in its description. A blue Burmese is not exactly blue; in fact, it's not even close to blue. Instead, this colour is represented by a thick shorthair coat of a medium charcoal tone.

People who are great fans of blue-coloured cats may also want to explore the blue British Shorthair, which is a fine example of this rich "blue" coat colour.

And this brings us to Cheshire Cat, which was/is a British Shorthair, because the Shorthair seems to be smiling all the time. It also has the characteristic compact, muscular body of the Shorthair and also seems fitting as Lewis Carrol was British himself.

Graffiti is an ally just off Høegh-Guldbergs Gade in Aarhus.

Cheshire cat in the detail of the graffiti.
The Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll's story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland disappears, leaving behind only its smile.


Friday, May 16, 2014

but its big enough to live in!

Last week I had the opportunity to scrutinise a windmill. Finally came face-to-face with the so familiar object of Delft decorations and Dutch paintings.

Delft tile panel. 

The windmill at Wijkbijduurstede (1670) by Jacob Isaacks Zon van Ruisdael.

Windmills have been around for at least 1,300 years. The first windmills had vertical shafts and were reportedly built in Persia around the 7th century AD. Made of six to twelve sails covered in fabric or palm leaves, they were used to grind corn and draw up water. A similar type of vertical shaft windmill can also be found in 13th century China.
In Europe, windmills were developed in the Middle Ages. The earliest mills were probably grinding mills; therefor the name. The name stuck when in the course of history, windmill machinery was adapted to supply power for many industrial and agricultural needs other than milling.

The whole body of the windmill rotated on the central post, in order to face the wind. To allow this to happen, a tailpole or tiller beam extended from the rear of the body. By pushing on this beam (or by using some form of winch or animal power) the miller rotated his mill. The tailpole also provides a useful attachment point for a ladder to provide access to the mill.

The smock mill is a type of windmill that consists of a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded tower, usually with six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers in an earlier period.

A windmill in the background at the Aarhus Old City.

The ladder (on the right side of the picture) provides access to the mill,
and is also the handle of the beam that rotate the mill. 




Mei & May & Maj

'The Merry Month of May' was a part of Thomas Dekker's play, The Shoemaker's Holiday, first performed in 1599.

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.

Now the nightingale, the pretty nightingale,
The sweetest singer in all the forest quire,
Entreats thee, sweet Peggy, to hear thy true love's tale:
Lo, yonder she sitteth, her breast against a brier.

But O, I spy the cuckoo, the cuckoo, the cuckoo;
See where she sitteth; come away, my joy:
Come away, I prithee, I do not like the cuckoo
Should sing where my Peggy and I kiss and toy.

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green;
And then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.

The month of May (Afrikaans: Mei; Danish: Maj) is the last month of spring in the northern hemisphere and the last month of autumn in the southern hemisphere.

To see a Mayflower bloom in May, means that the Mayflower is rooted soil in the Northern Hemisphere soil.

When I moved to Aarhus in May, I found a city covered in the confetti-like flowers, as well as one very special flower, Xu Mei. It is standard for the Chinese to address one another by using full names, and the family name (surname) before the personal name.
I met Mei while we both were involved in the EPOKE-project on the Emdrup-campus in Copenhagen, and travelled by foot and bus across Copenhagen one bitterly cold night in December. During the month of May, Mei stays across the hall from me, on the third floor of the International dorm.

Mei, an PhD student in Higher Education Studies at Aarhus University.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Møllestien, a lane with ancient charm.

As I strolled through the Latin Quarter or Latiner kvarteret, the oldest part of Aarhus, I entered a street that dates back to the Viking age.

The old idyllic Møllestien lane is a picturesque cobbled street right in the centre of Aarhus, and the cobbles are worn. 

The hollyhocks and rambling roses race each other to grow up against the tiny old half-timbered houses with their small-paned windows. The front doors are as high and wide as I am.


A list of Mollestien home-owners of the middle 1800s and the location of the stands.

Most of the houses were built in the 18th century and the whole street exudes ancient charm. The street itself has existed even longer and is dated to the early middle ages – the time of the Vikings.


BED AND BREAKFAST. v. Inge-Lise Rauhe
Møllestien 50
8000 Århus C

Tlf.: 86136652 / 28706652

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chesire Cat, The City of Smiles, & The Luck One

Cheshire Cat
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a smiling Cheshire cat in a tree.

"Which road do I take?" she asked.

"Where do you want to go?" was his response.

"I don't know," Alice answered.

"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter.”

“Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do - some . . .  don't ever want to.”  
― The Cheshire Cat
Aarhus: The City of Smiles
Wondering through the Old City of Aarhus was a déjà vu of 25 months ago in Cheshire . . .

The same Medieval building style in Aarhus (left) and Cheshire (right).

The Cheshire Cat Inn was built in the early 1600s as a private residential building, was converted in 1676 into charitable housing for widows and was converted in the early 1900s into the Cheshire Cate Inn.

Nua: The Lucky One
Nua Lilly was born in Cheshire on 9 May 2012, and I had the privileged of meeting my little niece within two months of that great event. Her parents named her Nua (new) and The Lucky One.

Nua with mom Anja (3 July 2012)

'Sorry dear Nua, the lens was in your face even before you realised you woke-up from your little nap in the Cheshire Cat Inn!'

Happy birthday, Lucky One

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Aarhus & Aros

Together with 1,2 million people, I'm now staying in Aarhus, the biggest single city in the East Jutland metropolitan area or Byregion Østjylland, which is a co-operation with 17 municipalities.

The modern city of Aarhus
The Aarhus River is flowing through the inner city of Aarhus and ends in Aarhus Habour.

The city itself is presumably older than 770 AD, making Aarhus the oldest big city in Scandinavia.

A model of Aros, the fortified Viking town around 950 AD

During the Middle Ages the city was called Arus, and in Icelandic chronicles, it was known as Áróss. It is a compound of the two words ār, genitive of ā ("river", Modern Danish å) and ōss ("mouth", Modern Danish munding).

Medieval Denmark

Aros is also a river that ran through Beleriand in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium.