GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Travelogue from England and Spain – Part II

This is a follow-up to my recent blogpost Travelogue from England and Spain – Part I

Sometimes it makes sense not to establish a settlement atop a gorge but to mould one’s buildings along it instead. So it is in Andalucia where the incredible town of Setenil de las Bodegas which has its modern roots in the fifteenth century although there is evidence of habitation for millennia before that. via

Sometimes it makes sense not to establish a settlement atop a gorge but to mould one’s buildings along it instead. So it is in Andalucia in the incredible town of Setenil de las Bodegas which has its modern roots in the fifteenth century although there is evidence of habitation for millennia before that.   via

I’ve never seen this remarkable town but it well illustrates Spain’s boggling landforms.

There’s no place on earth without its wonders. Whistling shoreline vents, Neolithic tunnels, Gothic cathedrals. Let a Hopi child or a Hottentot take your hand and lead you to a hidden cave with petroglyphs. If the cave is near Angkor Wat you may pay money to walk the ruins and never learn about the cave.

I came to Spain prepared to feast on the arts but ended gobsmacked by the land itself.  Gravid hills, flinty shoals of merciless rock. Crops laid out on near perpendicular hillsides. What if you tip your sack of olives over? Rappelling ropes and tweezers?

In one region the mountains are lined up like round disks on end — some of the land so bleak that plants fail to get purchase. You can walk the boulevards of Madrid and gawk up at grandstanding monuments and never dream the brutal life in the Spanish outlands where many an aged town clutches a hilltop, some already being swallowed by the crushing vines of an abandonment.   In each and every town a church, always a church.  Tallest structure in sight, a magnetic draw for the scant scatter of habitations.

I understand the densities of suburbs, cities, even a seasonal second-rate mountain resort, but to live in such isolation with a random grab-bag of personalities, squeezed up on your steep hill with views for miles and miles of emptiness? Our notions of 24/7 decompose into quicksand.  Now radio, television, DVDs, the mighty Web all dangle a vision of Another Life in front of youth.  How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm? National Geographic will show you a Casbah vendor hawking illicit videos.

Imagine a pale sari with one corner dipped in a vat of crimson. The dye seeps up warp and woof, slowly little trees of color overtake the cloth’s original pastel. Globalization seeps like this. And it’s being sold by masters to rubes. Madison Avenue and Hollywood and Bollywood know how to grab you by the collar. There you sit contemplating a Buddha and someone plays you an MTV hit. Beats, flesh, boogie, flash. What if you’re Snowball the dancing cockatoo? Do you choose contemplation or stimulation?


…sold by masters to rubes: this deserves comment. Pretty much all of us are rubes, we take in a jingle and pluck the product from the shelves next day. Or at least linger over it longer than before. If you’re on guard you aren’t manipulated as often but our environment is as full of advertisements as microbes.  If you’re in modern society they’ve got you. Cereal boxes, billboards, backsides of airplane seats, doctors’ offices with angles on your condition written by Big Pharma. The price of consuming mass media is a commercial bite of your consciousness.  What’s it say on your t-shirt? Your running shoes? Your pantyhose and camera and chewing gum wrappers and laptop with its logo?   Someone sings or drawls or reads off a radio station’s call letters hourly or more often by law.  Gonna sneeze? Hand me a Kleenex. What’s it mean when advertisers can make their product’s name a ‘household word’?

That’s spoken in your household.



Categories contemporary society, history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Travelogue from England and Spain – Part I

This blogpost contains scattershot impressions of three weeks in England, Spain, and England again.

Zipping along curvy country lanes near Salisbury, England in a car confidently driven by a denizen — hedges whip past on both sides of the road as it becomes clear to me what inspired Kenneth Grahame to write of Mr Toad’s wild ride. Two-way traffic is an art because narrow village lanes require one car to huddle against some shrubbery as the other travels by. I don’t get how they know who gives, who goes. Nor do I want to.  My job while being driven in England is to resist screaming.

A Meditation on Cows

Downtown Boston, Massachusetts is said to have been laid out by cows.  Lower Manhattan in New York appears to be the same.  Meandering streets mark the best way a bovine could get from hither to yon — around rocky outcrops, at the shallow ford of a stream.  Measured-out rectangular blocks came later, the rectitude of Reason riding the ill-tamed steed of Technology.

Grahame’s Wind in the Willows depicts an England designed first by animal instinct, at the time of the first automobiles. Hedges block your view, you feel the roll of the hills under you while traveling down a green chute. Toot-toot!

Cows need bulls. Spain has a thing about bulls, just ask Picasso.  At the first of three Paradores we stayed in on our way back from Bilbao to Barcelona, the event of the day was a running of the bulls.  About eight motley taurines clattered into the square looking bemused. One had a clanging cowbell around its neck. None ranked as a ferocious toro.  Just country bulls looking forward to a peaceful night’s sleep.

The square held an odd metal contraption in the center, a circular platform surrounded by a wall easily jumped.  Here the fearless bullmen retreated for safety.  (I should mention that before we walked to the festivities two ambulances pulled up close by.) We the crowd were penned behind prodigious barricades made of metal pipes and lumber the gauge a karate master might splinter for tourists.

The bulls milled around the square and then got shooed down a side street. Only one returned for our entertainment. His expression read ‘Huh?’.    Brave men dressed in the red-accented white of the holiday came and waved red capes to enrage the bull. Sometimes magenta.  They yelled, they leaned over their metal wall and pulled on its horns.  A few times the bull charged at some man who leapt nimbly to safety as the pasture-raised bull skidded on paving stones, kept his balance and again puzzled at the situation.

More hoots, more red cloth.  Only one among them (hired for the occasion?) seriously worked at rousing the bull’s anger.  But Ferdinand is Ferdinand.  We, amongst others, broke ranks and headed back for refreshments.  My feet hurt after the interminable wait on paving stones, the bull was unscathed, we were bored.  I raised a bubbly glass of cava  to bedeviled bulls in a snug tapas bar.  


The Paradores in Spain are state-run mildly-luxurious hotels sited in old castles, convents, fortresses.  The venues are glorious settings to wander and imagine earlier times.  They also provide income to preserve historic architecture.  I felt it was a hallway between between a fervent past and a tourist-driven present.  Ruins both noble and ruined serve ‘traditional’ foods you can wash down with Coca-Cola. And yet run your wondering hands along walls steeped with historic goings-on.

Categories contemporary society, history | 2 Comments

Cecil the Lion in Humanity’s Eye

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.            

Sitting Bull                 via


Thoughts from a First Nations American about Trophy Hunting

As a Native American I want to say something, and this is my observation. My people hunt, and when we do so we do it for food only.  We take no pleasure in taking life, we respect the animal.  So I don’t hate hunting.   I hate it when Westerners hunt.  Because every photograph I see on this [trophy hunting] page does not show respect for the animal.  It shows a typical American posing and grinning over the dead.  That is not respect.  Respect is not photographing a corpse, or taking pleasure from death…      Mez Kitsu       statement via Facebook


Woman displaying an African lion she is pleased to have killed.  Name unknown, inner state as clear as day.

Woman displaying an African lion she is pleased to have killed. Name unknown, inner state as clear as day.


Bloodsport or blood sport …. the Cambridge Online Dictionary defines blood sport as “any sport that involves animals being killed or hurt to make the people watching or taking part feel excitement.”           via Wikipedia Blood Sport


A canned hunt is a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. According to one dictionary, a canned hunt is a “hunt for animals that have been raised on game ranches until they are mature enough to be killed for trophy collections.”      via Wikipedia Canned Hunt


In May 2007 a much-reported hunting trip involved the killing of a 1,051 pound pet pig in an alleged canned hunt. The pig was named “Monster Pig” by the media and it was believed that the pig was a feral hog. It was soon discovered that the pig, previously named “Fred,” had been someone’s pet and was then sold to a hunting facility only a brief time before he was killed. On May 3, paying customers Mike Stone and his 11-year-old son, Jamison, hunted him in a 150 acres (0.61 km2) fenced enclosure. Jamison shot Fred a total of eight times over a period of three hours.         via WikipediaMonster Pig

After fending for itself in the wild for four days the pig that loving children recently fed canned yams to suffered over three hours from gunshot wounds and terror as he was pursued and slowly bled to death.

Comments by skeptical hunters included these on

And ten shots with a .500 S&W??? Anyone here own one of these handguns? I own one!!  And I’ll be the first to tell you that if you need 10 shots from a .500S&W to put down a 1000lb hog, you have no business hunting. One shot would be ideal, two would probably be needed on something this large, and a third shot only in a rare instance. …. :nono: 100% Unimpressive.    Adam Craig

[Folks] don’t like to be killed by enraged hogs…and though most [hogs] top out far below 1,000 lbs, even 600 lbs of angry chitlins isn’t anything to mess with.   Teresa


Great Spirit,
Give us hearts to understand
Never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give,
Never to destroy only for the furtherance of greed,
Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth’s beauty,
Never to take from her what we cannot use.


valor: great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.  Example: “the medals are awarded for acts of valor”
synonyms: bravery, courage, pluck, nerve, daring, fearlessness, audacity, boldness,dauntlessness, stout-heartedness, heroism, backbone, spirit.


 A picador …is one of the pair of horsemen in a Spanish bullfight that jab the bull with a lance. They perform in the tercio de varas which is the first of the three stages in a Spanish bullfight.  The picador has three main functions:

To pierce the muscle on the back of the bull’s neck in order to straighten the bull’s charge.
To fatigue the bull’s neck muscles and general stamina as it tries to lift the horse with its head.
To lower the bull’s head in preparation for the next stage.
If the public feels that a picador is overenthusiastic in his lancing they will whistle, boo or jeer as they see fit. This is because they do not want the bull to lose all its strength and energy as this can lead to a dull bullfight.


Years ago I attended a wedding whose vows included this Navajo prayer.  The bride is now an active international advocate against human torture. Trophy hunters, measure up.

As I Walk with Beauty

As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.


Cecil the lion was lured to his death by an unscrupulous man who expected it would thereby guarantee him a prize. This man had been convicted of doing the same for a bear some years earlier.  Hunters who kill in order to put food on the table aren’t hanging taxidermy on the wall.  I used to believe that all hunting was wrong, but with what we now know about animals abused by agribusiness I think it’s better that the wild animals at least get a normal life.

Trophy hunting is the hobby of a wealthy enclave that assures itself that their deeds are not inglorious.  That hiring a skilled hunter who hunts the animal embowers the ultimate shooter with glory.  They believe they can buy valor.  They can’t.


Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.     Chief Seattle of the Squamish

The End


Though if my readers would enjoy blood ‘sportsmen’ skewered with words I suggest a novel and a very comic song.

Now it's fair poster

•   Carl Hiaasen‘s novel Sick Puppy begins and ends with canned hunts of imported African rhinos, which are a favorite activity of the book’s antagonist, corrupt lobbyist Palmer Stoat.  I’ve rarely read a Hiaasen novel that didn’t get a guffaw out of me.

•   Tom Lehrer’s wholehearted bullfighting song In Old Mexico may put you in a better mood.  He’s a prime skewerer.


Categories contemporary society, interspecies, science, nature | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Infographic Misdemeanor



from Scientific American, The Most Invasive Species of All. Curtis W. Marean,
Scientific American 313, 32 – 39 (2015) 

This infographic in Scientific American gnawed at me until I went back to study it.  I ask you to look too.  It’s divided into four equal parts in which a circle is centered and an oval superimposed on that. Why four parts instead of three?  The information is separated into Not Territorial, Coastal Resources, Terrestrial African Environments.  Why select a quartered circle to plot these against?

If a scientist used “ain’t” in a report it would leap off the page at you. But ill-conceived graphics? We don’t have enough fluency with them yet. Maybe infographic artists don’t either.

Giotto painted angels who looked like humans with halos and wings. Were they real? They’re real enough for Giotto’s purpose and for his audience lining the pews.

An infographic accompanies scientific data. It is ethically obliged to present that data clearly.  Representing three categories as four obfuscates reality.

Giotto angel

Giotto di Bondone – Scenes from the Life of Christ, Presentation at the Temple (detail). via Wikipedia


You may also enjoy my Pinterest board  Fads in Depicting the Unseeable.

Categories design, science, nature, specific Pinterest boards | Tagged | Leave a comment

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: