Monday, April 30, 2012


Nocturne of the Poet Who Loved the Moon

I have grown tired of the moon, tired of its look of astonish-
ment, the blue ice of its gaze, its arrivals and departures, of
the way it gathers lovers and loners under its invisible wings,
failing to distinguish between them. I have grown tired of
so much that used to entrance me, tired of watching cloud
shadows pass over sunlit grass, of seeing swans glide back and
forth across the lake, of peering into the dark, hoping to find
an image of a self as yet unborn. Let plainness enter the eye,
plainness like the table on which nothing is set, like a table that
is not yet even a table.

-- Mark Strand, from "Almost Invisible"

I belatedly learned about last week's "Poem in Your Pocket Day," which called for carrying and sharing poetry. Thanks to my blog pal Elizabeth, who posted this wonderful piece of writing back in December.

(Photo: Our front hallway.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012


We're going big here at Shadows & Light! I finally figured out how to widen my blog template to accommodate larger photos. This blog is ostensibly about my photography, after all, and I think the larger pics look much better.

In fact, last night I edited my posts all the way back through October, enlarging the photos. It was a relatively easy task, just time consuming and repetitive -- I think I was on the verge of giving myself carpal tunnel when I stopped.

The blog looks good to me, but I'm curious how it appears on other computers. Do the pictures run under the words or break the template? Are they too big? Any feedback is appreciated!

(Photo: A weather-battered cherry tree in Notting Dale, yesterday.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012


"It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I'll be able to realize them!"

Anne Frank wrote those words on July 15, 1944, just a couple of weeks before she and the seven others who shared her hiding space were captured by the Nazis in Amsterdam. I finished her diary last night, and I'm so glad I read it. As I mentioned before, I don't think I ever read the entire book -- and certainly not the more recent edition, which contains a lot of material edited out of her original published diary.

I vaguely remembered that she had a puppydog romance with Peter, the son of the other family in hiding with the Franks. I was touched by how naive both she and Peter were. They only seemed to have the vaguest notion of what happened during sex, or even what the opposite gender looked like naked. Anne told Peter that she didn't know the word for male genitalia. And there's no evidence they ever got very physical themselves -- Anne attributed great meaning to her first kiss from Peter, and it was a mere brush of the lips that fell half on her cheek and half on her ear. Can you imagine? These were teenagers! The world was so different then, and people were so sheltered.

I'd like to think that in today's modern world, where knowledge -- not just anatomical knowledge, but all knowledge -- is so much more freely shared, evil on Hitler's scale couldn't occur. But it's hard to say. Hatred, racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, anti-Islamism and all the other "antis" all creep into our lives and our discourse, sometimes without being immediately apparent. Occasionally I find myself making a joke and thinking, "Whoah. That's probably not appropriate!" Don't we all do that? And isn't such carelessness the first step?

Anyway, there's not much I can say about Anne Frank that hasn't already been said. I suppose she did realize her goals -- she wanted to be a writer, and she wrote one of the most significant, best-selling books of all time. She'd be about 80 now, if she'd survived. The truly tragic thing is that she and her sister died weeks -- and Peter just days -- before the concentration camps were liberated. I suppose that could be said of thousands of people.

(Photo: Notting Hill, on Wednesday.)

Friday, April 27, 2012


All the windy, rainy weather of the past few days has shaken loose millions of petals from the blooming trees. The streets are paved with pink and white!

The petals in that last photo, from the big white tree, were stuck to our sixth-floor kitchen window. When the wind howls, they really fly. It's like a snowstorm!

Despite all the wet weather, I was able to get out yesterday for two walks with my camera and a brief run. Today I have a second interview for a part-time job, so we'll see how that goes!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anne Frank

Yesterday's day of quiet was just what I needed. And it actually wasn't that quiet! Jim & Karla dropped by to pick up their bags, which you may remember they left with us for safekeeping a month ago. We had tea and talked about their travels through Europe via bus and train, which sounded like one heck of an adventure. Then I talked to my mom via Skype for an hour or so, and was happy to learn that her doctor proclaimed her the healthiest 74-year-old he'd seen that day! And I went grocery shopping, cleaned house and sat for a while.

I'm working my way through Anne Frank's diary. Apparently there have been a few different editions of the diary -- Anne Frank herself re-edited her original diary while still in hiding, adding to and deleting some earlier entires. Her father further edited it after the war, prior to its original publication. A new "critical edition" published in 1980 after his death restored much of the material he'd edited out, and then a few more stray pages were discovered, so those were added. All this explains why this "definitive edition" of the diary, which I bought when Dave and I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, is longer than I remember from childhood.

She's an engaging writer, and having visited her secret annex, I can envision the rooms as she describes them. At heart, though, she's still a young teenager, obsessed with all the personal dramas and conflicts of that age. You should hear her carry on about her mother -- good grief. Some things never change!

(Photo: Pedestrians on the South Bank, Monday.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This is what's left of a wonderful trailing geranium that grew on our balcony last summer. When winter came, I brought it inside out of the cold several times -- and then, during one snowy night in February, I left it outside. The entire plant promptly died, with the exception of a few pieces that had been sheltered from the snow. I've been trying to root those pieces in a container of water on the kitchen windowsill, but so far, no roots. Miraculously, the cuttings continue to grow and bloom. Maybe I need to get some rooting hormone and plant them in some dirt.

Also on the gardening front: remember those canned seeds we bought in Amsterdam and planted? Well, none of them ever grew. It's been more than five weeks, and I've just about given up on them. I had a feeling they would amount to naught. The directions called for planting the seeds too deeply. The poor things couldn't get to the surface even if they tried.

As you can see, the weather is dismal today -- gray, rainy and windy. I'm staying inside. My friend Pam flew home yesterday afternoon, and Dave left for a school trip to Munich this morning. So I have several days of peace and quiet all to myself. I feel like I need them, which may seem absurd, given that I work from home and on my own timetable. But between my "London in a Day" walking tour with Pam and last week's activities with Marilyn and Jason, I'm ready to put my feet up.

Pam and I made an impromptu trip to Harrod's yesterday morning so she could pick up some souvenirs for her family. In the nine months that Dave and I have lived in London we've never been to Harrod's. The food halls are overwhelmingly opulent -- the case of pork and veal alone is bigger than the entire meat case at our neighborhood Tesco. (And probably far fresher.) I saw produce that was utterly new to me -- a fist-sized variety of passionfruit, and some Colombian fruit that looked a bit like a yellow hedgehog. Prices on such items were, of course, insane. Does anyone really buy this stuff?

As a special treat, Pam and I ate at the Harrod's seafood counter. I ordered a salmon fish cake, but the waitress instead brought me a £24 plate of fish & chips. (That's $39 -- a crazy price, no matter how good the fish is!) Fortunately, because she screwed up my order, the waitress gave me a glass of wine for free -- and then Pam picked up the tab, which was really great of her. So I have no reason to complain. (The fish & chips were terrific, too.)

Now, I'm just going to relax and read and listen to the rain!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

London in a Day

Pam is only visiting for one full day. Today she gets on a plane bound for the United States. And she's never been to London, so yesterday I knew we had to make the most of the time we had.

We set out in the morning -- not particularly early -- and took the tube to the eastern part of the city. From there we walked, on a Bataan Death March of sightseeing, all the way back to the West End. We saw:

The Tower of London
The Tower Bridge
The Shard
City Hall
Borough Market
Southwark Cathedral
The Millennium Bridge
St. Paul's (from the bridge)
The Tate Modern
The London Eye
The Houses of Parliament
Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
St. James Park
Buckingham Palace
Trafalgar Square

And to top it all off, we did it in the rain. Assuming that Pam survives her ordeal without contracting pneumonia, she can now say she has seen London!

Of course I'm making it sound ridiculously bad, and it was really fine. We didn't go in most of those places because we just didn't have time. We went into the Tower Bridge and walked across the upper span, which I'd never done, and we went up in the Eye because when we passed the line was absurdly short, and I thought we should seize the opportunity. Despite the rain, we had a nice view. (Above)

All in all, it was a 5-mile walk -- and this was after walking about 5 miles around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens the evening before. Fortunately Pam is as much of a walker as I am, so she held up fine!

Monday, April 23, 2012


Just a quick snapshot of some tulips I picked up at Tesco. They're very springy, aren't they?

Pam arrived yesterday, and we spent the afternoon walking all the way around Hyde Park. Fortunately, she's as much of a wanderer as I am. She got to see most of the sights in the vicinity, and today we're going down to the Thames to walk the riverfront. Because she's not here very long, we're trying to see all that we comfortably can. Fortunately the weather has cooperated. (The rain that was forecast for this week has turned out to be a shower or two in an otherwise sunny day, rather than a persistent rain -- so I've had a lot more outdoor time than I thought I might.)

Last night Dave made dinner. Pam hadn't met Dave yet, so I'm glad they finally had an opportunity to connect! It's so funny -- I've been with Dave three years now, but many of my old friends haven't met him, because they're scattered around the country. I guess that's one advantage to a formal wedding, rather than a tiny simple ceremony like we had -- everyone gets together. Oh well -- we're taking our time with introductions!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beauty & Union Jacks

Yesterday Dave and I went to see "Beauty" ("Skoonheid"), a South African film I just happened to read about in the Evening Standard. It's about a middle-aged, married Afrikaaner who grows infatuated with a young man, the son of his old army buddy -- and of course it's really about the tyranny of the closet. The main character leads a painful, repressed life of illicit sexual liaisons, and when he predictably soothes the pain with alcohol he grows violent. In the movie's saddest scene, he silently watches two young, comfortably gay men kiss in a restaurant, and you know he's meditating on his own life of missed opportunity. It's a good movie, despite its dark themes and somewhat ambiguous resolution.

Then we happened to stroll past Jamie Oliver's restaurant Union Jacks, which he opened with chef Chris Bianco. It's in the bottom of Central St. Giles, architect Renzo Piano's colorful complex of buildings off Charing Cross Road (I took the photo above in January, which is why the tree is so bare). We popped in and got a table, and had some excellent wood-fired pizzas (mine: the "red ox," with oxtail, red leicester cheese, watercress and shaved horseradish) and a couple of pints. I liked the motto printed on the coasters: "God Hates Flags."

Today my Peace Corps friend Pam arrives to stay for a few nights on her way back from Spain to the United States. So we'll be seeing the sights, I'm sure! Dave's planning to cook up a risotto for her tonight -- he's hoping he'll be able to find ramps, which we learned are known as "wild garlic" in England.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

London Shopfronts

On Monday I took a long walk through Shepherd's Bush, to the west of our neighborhood. I wanted to see the Victorian-gothic Wormwood Scrubs prison (and isn't that a great name for a prison?), but of course it's behind high walls so there's not a lot to see from the road. Instead I occupied myself by photographing interesting shops and restaurants.

I've photographed the Coffee Cup, on the wonderfully named North Pole Road, before. But it was closed in my previous photo, taken on a Sunday. This time I was lucky enough to catch it while it's open.

I just love storefronts. They say so much about a city and its diversity, and I love the typography and the decisions store owners make about color and design. Sometimes you think, "That looks like an awesome store," and sometimes you think, "Ummm...really?"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clear, No Horses

Twice this week, soon after Dave has left for work, I've heard the clop-clop-clop sound of horses on the road outside our window. And not just one or two -- a whole herd of horses. I've run to the window just in time to see 12 of them proceeding eastbound on Westbourne Grove, lined up in pairs and bearing riders in green vests. I have no idea who they are. Police? Military?

This morning I went down to the street thinking I'd sit out on a bench and wait for them, but they never showed. Maybe this is just one of several routes that they sometimes take on their morning constitutional, or maybe they don't ride every day. It's 42 degrees out this morning, so after half an hour I came back inside.

Fortunately, it's clear and sunny -- but the forecast calls for thunderstorms, with a 70 percent probability of rain. Maybe later today I'll be glad I got outside, even if I froze my tuchus.

Dave and I watched "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" last night, a perennial favorite. I needed the laughs after Dave played me a video that his father sent him of Dennis Prager speaking at a Colorado university. I hadn't heard Prager before -- he's a right-wing radio host -- and he was talking about American exceptionalism, how America is far superior to Western Europe (and no doubt, everyone else) as mankind's best hope. Isn't that sort of swaggering nationalism exactly what's led the U.S. into fruitless conflict all over the world?

(Photo: This morning, on Westbourne Grove.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stormy Weather

This is what the weather looks like around here this week. Rain, rain, rain -- mixed with weird schizophrenic bursts of sunshine that last half an hour or so. I managed to squeak in a desperate run yesterday in between showers, but for the most part I stayed indoors, reading and working on my freelance website project.

We've even had a bit of thunder and lightning, which is a rarity in these parts. Last night Trellick Tower looked even more forbidding than usual against a dark, stormy sky.

I wish I had something more interesting or newsworthy to report, but honestly, I'm just not motivated to tackle any big issues. I read the paper yesterday, immersing myself in stories about the sadly twisted Anders Behring Breivik, prostitute-hiring Secret Service agents and the newest abuses by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. And I just have nothing to say about any of it. My response to most news these days is just to feel deflated.

So I'm sticking to watching the clouds. According to the forecast, they're not going to break until the 28th. I'm just keeping in mind that whole "April showers" thing.

Oh, also, I wrote a guest post yesterday at the request of Ms. M, a blog pal who's an elementary school teacher. Her blog is about teaching, and I'm not a teacher (obviously), so initially I wondered what to write about. But we've all had teachers, right? So what makes our best-remembered teachers special? That's the subject of my post, which you can find here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Big White Tree

For the last several years, I've been lucky enough to live in close proximity to some incredible blooming trees.

In Manhattan I had the magnolia behind my building. And in New Jersey we had this big cloud of a tree outside our apartment, and other trees in the field where the dogs used to run and sniff around.

Here's the one we have now -- a huge white thing down in the courtyard. I have only the fuzziest idea that it's some kind of ornamental fruit tree. Isn't it great?

When I grew up in Florida, of course, we had blooming trees all around us. But Florida trees are like tropical print shirts -- bright and showy. The purple jacaranda, the orange poinciana, the red kapok, the yellow tabebuia -- they're the visual equivalent of brilliant squawking parrots. Even the white magnolias seem extreme, with fleshy lobed flowers as large as dinner plates.

Northern trees, on the other hand, seem much gentler, with their refined whites and pinks and tiny flowers. Maybe that's why I find them so captivating.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dog on Shoulders

This is one of our neighborhood characters. He's a fairly common sight in Notting Hill and along Portobello Road, where he was working on Saturday at the market. I think he was unloading produce, but I was too distracted by the omnipresent dog on his shoulders to really notice.

I asked him if I could take a photo, and he said he was working so he couldn't stop for me. I told him he didn't need to stop -- I could shoot him while he worked, which I did. He seemed to appreciate that I asked first.

For some reason, though, I didn't ask his name. (Some kind of journalist I am!) Fortunately, Flickr has a photo pool dedicated entirely to him. There he is identified as Ron and the dog as Betsy. (Or occasionally, Mitzie. I'm not sure which is right. Maybe I'll ask Ron next time I see him.)

Apparently the dog's been riding around like that since at least 2006, when this photo was taken. In July 2007, another photographer captured the two in Hyde Park. Talk about man's best friend!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Waterbirds in St. James's Park

We took a stroll with Marilyn and Jason through St. James's Park last week, and several of the waterbirds caught our eye. The beautiful geese above, for example, are entirely new to me. They're called red-breasted geese (Branta ruficollis), an endangered species from Eurasia. I assume these are part of the park's collection of birds, and not strays that wound up here naturally.

This is a bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) from Central Asia -- apparently quite common.

And this is a red-crested pochard (Netta rufina). Wikipedia says that while these birds are also native to Asia, it's likely that escapees have built a feral population in England.

And finally, here's my old pal, the coot. I took this mainly because we could see his freaky, partly webbed feet so clearly.

There are lots of other amazing waterbirds in the park, which is basically the front yard for Buckingham Palace: swans, Mandarin ducks, Egyptian geese, tufted ducks, moorhens, herons, you name it. Also resident is the cursed Canada goose, and many more common birds like mallards.

You may remember I posted a photo of colorful Egyptian geese along the Regent's Canal in February.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Remember when rioting broke out across London last August? If you were like me, watching shop windows being smashed and blocks of buildings burning on television, you probably said something like, "What are those people thinking?"

Thanks to a study called "Reading the Riots" by the London School of Economics and The Guardian newspaper, we now have some idea. These are comments made by rioters, printed in last month's issue of Harper's magazine.
"When I went outside for the first time, I could feel like, that the air was, it wasn't how it normally was, it was like an unspoken kind of feeling just floating around. It actually made me feel really strong."

"There weren't no gangs. I didn't know no one there, but we all got together that day, the Asians, the blacks, the whites. It felt like we were like one big gang. Normally we don't get along. But we weren't fighting each other; we were fighting the police. What I really noticed that day was that we had control. It felt great."

"Those fucking shops, like, I've given them a hundred CVs, not one job. That's why I left my house. Why haven't I even got an interview? I feel like I haven't been given the same opportunities as other people have. At the end of the day, yeah, maybe I have got a bit of hate in my heart."

"They was just of all ages, from fourteen, fifteen to big adults. You're in shock, really, because everyone was just starting to smash out the windows of every shop around them. I would never have, like, smashed a window personally myself, but because it was there I just saw it as an opportunity. I just thought about the clothes that I saw that normally I'd have to spend £30, £40 on. So I entered the shop."

"We smashed the police station at the bottom of Park Road, and for me that was -- I'll never forget that, never forget that. I've been locked up in that station myself. I've been arrested and taken in there and knuckled and all of that. And when everyone was putting their windows in I didn't feel any inclination to stop them. Do you know what I mean?"

"Even though I'm studying law, I still felt it was right to do what I did. I was happy. I was overjoyed. I was like, 'Yes, you gonna get taught a fucking lesson now.' Because I've so many friends that have got beaten up by police officers. I set, I think it was a Lotus, one of them cars on fire."

(Photo: Boxes set out for recycling on Portobello Road.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Humped Pelicans

I spent all day yesterday out with Marilyn and Jason. We went to Greenwich -- they were wary of going themselves, because the route demands a few transfers on the tube and light rail systems, which can seem daunting. So I tagged along, and we went to the Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory and the old naval college.

It was a day of unexpected surprises and absurdities. We stumbled onto a huge movie set at the naval college, with extras wandering around in military costumes suited to Revolutionary France. Someone asked what was going on, and one of the extras said they were filming "Les Miserables." So keep an eye out for the movie -- and if you see a bald guy wandering around in the background wearing jeans and a lime green Merrill jacket, that's me. (I was prohibited from photographing the movie set, alas. It included a huge statue of an elephant, which left us very perplexed.)

Then, in Canary Wharf, we saw this gigantic tow-truck (above) preparing to load this tiny, tiny car. Overkill!

We spotted this mysterious street sign, and wondered whether it was a special crossing for some bizarre species of waterbird. Only via Google did I learn that a pelican crossing is just one of several kinds of street crossings in England named after animals. I'd heard of zebra crossings, which involve stripes painted on the street and so are self-explanatory. Pelican, on the other hand, is a clumsy acronym for "pedestrian light-controlled crossing," which just means a crossing with a stoplight. And humped just means that, in this case, the crossing is on top of a speed hump.

A colorful name for something very, well, pedestrian.

After all our wandering in Greenwich we met Dave here, at the Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe, where we had a few pints and dinner. The Mayflower bills itself as the oldest pub on the Thames, dating back to the 17th century. It has great atmosphere with views right on the river, and the ales were good. (Not that I'm an ale expert.)

Today Marilyn and Jason are stopping by for brunch before heading out to the airport and home to New Jersey.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Penguin Pool

I mentioned recently that our friends Marilyn and Jason from New Jersey were going to be visiting this week. Well, they arrived last Friday and they're going home tomorrow. Part of this week they stayed with us, and we've had fun exploring -- mostly pubs, truth be told, but other things as well.

One of our outings included the London Zoo in Regent's Park, where I'd never been before. On Monday we walked along the Grand Union and Regent's canals all the way to the zoo, and spent an afternoon with the African wild dogs, exotic birds, hungry slow-moving tree sloths and frisky okapi.

At the zoo we found this fantastic Art Deco penguin pool, built in 1932 and now listed as a protected structure. It's not used for penguins anymore -- the zoo has a much larger modern pool -- but they've preserved the old one "for people, rather than penguins," as the sign says. It seems to be just sitting there at the moment. I wonder if they could turn it into a cafe or something? (Not that it has to be occupied. I'm just glad it's been preserved.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Musique d'Express

You know how sometimes a song pops into your head with no provocation? That happened to me yesterday, when out of the blue I began humming a 25-year-old French pop tune called "Picasso."

Maybe you're thinking, "Wow, how impressive and worldly!" I wish I could say I know this tune from my deep and abiding familiarity with French culture, absorbed while wandering along the Champs-Elysees and lingering in cafes, making eyes at handsome Frenchmen named Pierre.

But no. The sad fact is, I know this song from going to the mall in Florida.

About 22 years ago, while on a weekend trip to Miami, I went with my friends Arthur and Sue to the Bayside shopping center. Bayside was (is?) a colorful place surrounded by swaying palm trees, with kiosks of fun, whimsical merchandise and a few waterfront cafes. But beyond the tropical veneer it was basically a downtown mall, with the same pedestrian retail stores found in many other malls. Among these stores was clothing retailer Express, a division of The Limited. We wandered in.

And there I heard, drifting down from the sound system, a bouncy French song. It seemed exotic, sophisticated and fun. I was psyched to find, next to the cash register, a stack of cassettes of French pop music that included the tune. The tapes were called "Musique d'Express," with a cover depicting a trio of Euro-ish young people riding bicycles. I bought one immediately.

I was 23 at the time, and I hadn't yet been to Europe, or even outside the United States, except for one brief jaunt into Canada. I listened to that tape over and over in my car, driving around Tampa, dreaming of faraway lands. Over time, "Picasso" by Claudia Phillips became my favorite tune on the tape. When I went into the Peace Corps a few years later, I included the song on the handful of mix tapes that served as a consolidated, portable version of my music collection.

I don't know what happened to my original "Musique d'Express" cassette -- I probably tossed it in a fit of cleaning -- and because I took "Picasso" with me overseas, that's the only one of its songs I committed to memory. After I returned to the states in 1994, leaving my mix tapes in Morocco, "Picasso" vanished into the dark corners of my brain, popping out only occasionally and usually entirely unbidden.

When it came to mind yesterday, I decided to try to get some information about my old "Musique d'Express" tape. Of course, I turned to Google. And wouldn't you know, someone has written an article about it, with links to some of the songs. Now that I hear them, I remember them too. They sound a bit dated and '80s, but still magnifique to my ears.

(Photo: Street art by Mobstr on Hackney Road.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Faith and Reason

Sometimes I forget that religion just isn't reasonable.

I was raised a Christian, and though I now consider myself more Buddhist than anything else, I think I appreciate the teachings of Christianity as I understand them: love your neighbor, be kind, be charitable. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Care for the poor and the infirm.

Recently, though, through a complex series of Facebook references and links, I came across this site. I can't quite tell who sponsors it, or their denomination. But it was fascinating to read, if only because it reminded me just how much my views diverge from those of some Christians.

The site includes discussions on a number of political and religious issues, including, predictably, homosexuality. There's a point-by-point rebuttal of virtually any argument for accepting homosexuality. The overall gist is that it's prohibited by God, according to the Bible -- and because God is never wrong, nothing that we say or do can change that position. Even if scientists find a clear and specific biological or genetic basis for homosexuality, it will still be wrong, because God says so. (And besides, he would never create us to be gay.)

The site argues that being non-judgmental doesn't mean turning a blind eye. It means judging righteously. So it's OK to tell someone they're wrong or sinful.

And it argues that tolerating homosexuality -- and presumably, other "sinful" behavior -- is unacceptable because God "will bring judgment on the nation that fails to prosecute what He calls crimes." In other words, there's no such thing as live and let live, because one gay brings everyone down.

It's impossible to reason or debate with people who hold such ardent beliefs. I'm not talking just evangelical Christians -- conservative Muslims and Jews hold similar views. Ultimately their arguments are not reasonable. They're statements of faith: "I believe this because God says so."

I don't mean to denigrate faith or to paint everyone with a broad brush -- I know there are widely varying viewpoints within every religious community. But I don't understand a faith that is so watertight, so impervious to critical thinking and questioning, that it eclipses any recognition that others may have their own truths. I am almost always suspicious of certainty.

Personally, I suspect that God -- if there is a God, in the sense of any single being, which I doubt -- didn't say many of the things attributed to him. The Bible as a historical document has been ceaselessly tampered with and re-interpreted over the centuries, and even in its initial recording reflects the norms of civilization more than two thousand years ago. What really blows my mind is the idea that conservative Christians can't leave others alone to do as they see fit, because doing so is somehow going to bring down God's wrath upon all of society.


What a tangled web. Really. It makes me despair that we will ever be able to understand each other.

(Photo: Portobello Road, last week.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Internet Meme Street Art

Street artist(s) Andalltha has posted a series of graphic illustrations on London streets based on Internet memes, or drawings and other material that spread virally via the web. Some of these memes I'd heard about and some I hadn't -- and a few I'd seen but without really knowing what they were. It's been fun to figure out the meme behind each artwork.

Above, for example, is the troll, one of a series of rage faces used in comics first posted to the web site 4chan. (I once read an article describing 4chan and its unregulated message boards as the "Wild West" of the Internet, and it's true -- every time I go there I see something I wish I hadn't!) These rage faces have spread to other parts of the web and I've seen them used in blogs on Tumblr and elsewhere.

Here are two more rage faces. The one on the left is known as "Y U No Guy," as in, "Y U no put more colours in the LDN streets?" The one on the right is "Puking Rainbows."

These are "pedobears," which I'll let Wikipedia explain.

Some of you might recognize "Chocolate Rain," a popular viral video.

"Keyboard Cat" is another popular meme from a video.

And this is "Long Cat," a photo I used on an earlier post.

Finally, of course, there's the "Dramatic Chipmunk," which I mistakenly thought was a hamster. (Also from a viral video.) He's been augmented by another street tagger.

It's a pretty fun idea to take all these items that exist purely in hyperspace and put them on the street, into our physical world. The series, as I understand it, is called "My First Meme," and although it's credited on the streets to Andalltha, there are apparently several individuals behind it. Here's a promotional video.