I have long intended to start a blog site dedicated to reviews of planetariums and observatories. It would have been even more niche than markontour’s usual output, so perhaps it’s just as well it never happened. But if I were to start such a stargazers blog, the Griffith Observatory and park in Los Angeles, which I visited this weekend, would have to be the first entry.
I wonder if Brandon Yoshizawa knew that the exhaust plume of a Falcon 9 rocket would take on the shape of a flower as its hot discharge made contact with colder air of the upper atmosphere? He was certainly in the right place at the right time and with the requisite skill to capture an extraordinary image. The result, Flower Power, is a perfect example of the blend of art and science that makes the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Greenwich National Maritime Museum so special.
In a vital and captivating free new exhibition the Museum of London is celebrating forty-years since the release of London Calling by The Clash. It’s an album that is both precisely of its time and yet timeless, a spirit that the curators (working with the surviving members of the band) have managed to capture perfectly. Markontour has visited twice already in its first week and I’m sure I will be back a few more times before it closes in April.
On the top floor of a Tudor hunting lodge at the edge of Epping Forest, something both strange and enlightening happened this weekend. “On All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest” Becoming the Forest, and installation by Norwegian artist, Una Hamilton Helle, invited visitors to “take part in an audio journey celebrating the oncoming winter, populated by the voices of forest dwellers past and present, including the trees themselves.”
I have become a regular visitor to Hamburg this year, as it is a convenient stopping off point on the train journey from London through to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, where work takes me frequently. Usually I arrive late and leave early, but recently I discovered what I had been missing, after an early doors trip to the Hamburger Kuntshalle gallery. Most exciting were the landscapes of Caspar Friederich, an artist I had never previously encountered, but whose ‘Hill and Ploughed Field Near Dresden’ now lights up my soul every time I turn on my iPad.
I was briefly into performing magic as a kid, inspired by Paul Daniels on the telly if truth be told. A visit to the Wellcome Collection’s fascinating new exhibition, ‘Smoke and Mirrors – The Psychology of Magic’, has re-ignited my interest and reminded me just how malleable the human mind can be.
“Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice”, said Nelson Mandela, in a quote that closes ‘Mandela: The Official Exhibition” on London’s southbank. He went on to explain how poverty can be overcome: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings”.
Yesterday morning I was out with the dawn in order to catch the sun rising over the snow covered hills that surround our new Welsh home. At the peak of Mynnd Langorse a couple of hours later I met a man called Steve, who had fulfilled a thirty-year ambition to move here after first becoming enchanted with these Welsh hills after spending time in the valleys in 1984 as part of Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (an uplifting experience that was so brilliantly portrayed in the film ‘Pride’).
Earlier this week I awoke to see a field of lost clouds, a huge bank of them, gently swirling in the valley beyond our front window, separated from their brethren who were floating in their rightful places in the sky above the Welsh hills.
Just above the Peak District village of Castleton there lurks a very large cave. So large, in fact, that it would take several days of crawling in the dark if one were foolhardy enough to try and traverse its entire thirteen mile extent. Those, like markontour, who regard such exploits as very much for other people to enjoy, can nevertheless experience some of the beauty of the caves from the relative safety of an entrance known as The Devil’s Arse.