26 May 2010

Sleep mode

This blog is taking a kip at the moment. Gem is estimated to wake up at the beginning of next week.

15 May 2010

Bricks or trees

I have always wanted to live in a tree house, ever since I was a child. Yet now, when I am all grown up and able to choose freely, I go and buy a house made of bricks. A very solid house this new house is, not at all suited to hang from a tree.
There is something immensely monumental about bricks. The word itself belongs to the world of letters where phrases such as "down to earth" prosper best.
I know this little girl who dreams, right now, of a little tree shelter. She couldn't understand at all, why we are so excited about buying this house. "It's not like it's a tree house, you know! It's just a house," she sighed.
And she's right, of course. It is just a house. The third house. The one made of bricks. The one that cannot be broken into by the wolf.

13 May 2010

Elevated hanging houses

This is Andrew Maynard's plan for the second generation Styx Valley shelter for Greenpeace activists. The Styx Valley Forest is a forest of old in Tasmania, with 400 years old trees that are now at average higher than 80 metres. The survival of the Styx forest is being threatened by the logging companies. A large group of activists formed human barricades to halt the entry of bulldozers and log trucks. The activists were to date living in the first generation elevated tree houses. The second generation tree houses developed by Andrew Maynard are hugely improved and enable a more permanent living.

10 May 2010


There goes Terunobu

A 'takasugi-an' ('a teahouse [built] too high') is a tea-house on high stilts built by Terunobu Fujimori, a professor of architecture at the University of Tokyo (2004). Fujimori chose to implement his dream tree house on the garden of his father who, upon seeing his son's creation, sighed: 'There goes Terunobu, making something wacky again.'

07 May 2010

The little dressmaker

The story is too valuable to be found online, too long to transcribe, too marvelous to miss. 'The Little Dressmaker', a little tale from a collection by Eleanor Farjeon titled 'The Little Bookroom' (1955).
'Seven maids with seven brooms,' wrote Farjeon in the preface, 'sweeping for half-a-hundred years, have never managed to clear my mind of its dust, of vanished tamples and flowers and kings, the curls of ladies, the sighing of poets, the laughter of lads and girls: those golden ones who, like chimney-sweepers, must all come to dust in some little bookroom or other - and sometimes, by luck, come again for a moment to light.'

06 May 2010

Granny O'Grimm: Sleeping Beauty

This is 'Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty', an even grimmer take on the Grimms' classic. The animated short was directed by Nicky Phelan and written and performed by a stand-up comedian Kathleen O'Rourke (2008). This year, it came short of an Academy Award. For more, check Granny O'Grimm's website.

05 May 2010

Little Red

One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.

'The Girl and the Wolf', a story by James Thurber as published in his collection 'Fables for Our Time' (1940). Illustration is by Thurber himself.

04 May 2010

Snow White

This is 'Snow White' from the 2005 'Wonderland' series of Yeondoo Jung, a Korean photographer. Jung staged children drawings in real life and then took photographs of the actors and props. For more, press here.

03 May 2010

That story

You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.

Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son's heart.
From diapers to Dior.
That story.

Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.

Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
That story.

the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed
and she said to her daughter Cinderella:
Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile
down from heaven in the seam of a cloud.
The man took another wife who had
two daughters, pretty enough
but with hearts like blackjacks.
Cinderella was their maid.
She slept on the sooty hearth each night
and walked around looking like Al Jolson.
Her father brought presents home from town,
jewels and gowns for the other women
but the twig of a tree for Cinderella.
She planted that twig on her mother's grave
and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove
would drop it like an egg upon the ground.
The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.

Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing
and gussying up for the event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils
into the cinders and said: Pick them
up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends;
all the warm wings of the fatherland came,
and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother,
you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That's the way with stepmothers.

Cinderella went to the tree at the grave
and cried forth like a gospel singer:
Mama! Mama! My turtledove,
send me to the prince's ball!
The bird dropped down a golden dress
and delicate little slippers.
Rather a large package for a simple bird.
So she went. Which is no surprise.
Her stepmother and sisters didn't
recognize her without her cinder face
and the prince took her hand on the spot
and danced with no other the whole day.

As nightfall came she thought she'd better
get home. The prince walked her home
and she disappeared into the pigeon house
and although the prince took an axe and broke
it open she was gone. Back to her cinders.
These events repeated themselves for three days.
However on the third day the prince
covered the palace steps with cobbler's wax
and Cinderella's gold shoe stuck upon it.
Now he would find whom the shoe fit
and find his strange dancing girl for keeps.
He went to their house and the two sisters
were delighted because they had lovely feet.
The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on
but her big toe got in the way so she simply
sliced it off and put on the slipper.
The prince rode away with her until the white dove
told him to look at the blood pouring forth.
That is the way with amputations.
They just don't heal up like a wish.
The other sister cut off her heel
but the blood told as blood will.
The prince was getting tired.
He began to feel like a shoe salesman.
But he gave it one last try.
This time Cinderella fit into the shoe
like a love letter into its envelope.

At the wedding ceremony
the two sisters came to curry favor
and the white dove pecked their eyes out.
Two hollow spots were left
like soup spoons.

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
That story.

Cinderella, from 'Transformations', a poetry collection by Anne Sexton (1971)