Daleks in Nineveh

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It’s clearly a dalek in disguise attacking a walled city in a panel from the North Palace of the ancient city of Nineveh. Either that or a tank.

Kinda hoping it is a tank.

If it is a dalek then where is Doctor Who? Is there a panel, a vase or a statue of him hidden somewhere in the vast collections of The British Museum? Do they have the Tardis? No, wait, that actually seems to be parked here.

Makes me wonder what I will find the next time I spend three days roaming about the British Museum.

Proof of Time Travel?

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Never mind it’s been more than a year without a post. I have something much more interesting to show you.

Last week we spent five days in London and three of them in the British Museum. That meant we had time to see maybe a third of the stuff on display. Which means we need to go back there someday. I did draw some of the artifacts but more about that in another post. This is far more important.

Have you read any of those articles online that claim they have found evidence of time travel from old photographs? You know, those pictures with people who look almost exactly like some famous person of today? If you haven’t, just google it and you’ll see.

I don’t know about those photos. They are so easy to fabricate. These days one can Photoshop anything it seems. What I found is hard evidence – literally.

First I noticed this ancient Greek lekythos, a kind of an amphora that was often used in funerals and thus they are often decorated with scenes depicting funerals and the deceased. The picture on this particular lekythos was, according to the museum’s object card, a depiction of a departed young woman who is saddened to leave behind the world of the living.



Looks more like young Sylvester Stallone to me. I guess it’s easy to interpret the person as a woman by her hairstyle but she does look a bit masculine, don’t you think? Think of Stallone as Rambo and suddenly the hairdo makes sense. Just add a headband. See?

I suppose someone might not agree with me on that but how about this then:


Sylvester Stallone has traveled back in time to ancient Greece more than once. You have seen the evidence. I rest my case.

Oh, wait.

Maybe he’s a time lord…

The Art of Commonplace Books


Quinn of QuinnCreative posted recently about differences between a visual journal and commonplace journal (linking to my older blog which was very nice of her!). I have been keeping a commonplace book since I saw the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a teenager and fell in love with Doctor Jones, Sr’s commonplace book on the Holy Grail. You can view that journal here if you got interested. It’s a movie prop and not as detailed as the commonplace book -prop in The English Patient but very mysterious and intriguing anyhow. As prop goes, it’s not the real thing but the idea of a thing that counts.

It’s true as Quinn says that commonplace journals or books are not necessarily really artistic. It really isn’t what they are supposed to be but as the Dr. Jones, Sr’s journal demonstrates, basic notes and scribbles can add up into aesthetically pleasing pages. But there is no reason to stick to just pencil and ink. Most of my commonplace book pages are rather straight forward: I find something interesting in a newspaper of a magazine and if it fits the page, I will cut it out and glue it into the book. If it doesn’t, I will copy it by hand. I have collected lots of interesting pictures – photos and art – that way but also short weird news pieces and so on.


The one on the left is from a magazine I found in my high school’s library back in the day. It’s from the series ‘Pioneers of Empirical Science – Educational Collectible Cartoon.’ Below it reads: ‘Lord McMacLeod is about to begin his seminal experiments on electricity.’

Unlike Quinn I don’t use my commonplace books as planners. The books are my treasuries of the weird and wonderful and besides, I have never been much of dairy keeper anyway. One thing I do collect are rubbings of different Euro coins from around Europe since every country using Euros has their own design. Some collect the actual coins but I rather use the coins than just hoard them. No offence meant to numismatists. It just isn’t for me. 🙂 I also try to save the tickets to all art and museum exhibitions I have been to. Most of them go into the commonplace book but those visits that took place on holidays etc. usually go into the pertinent travel journal. Here is one such page from one of the commonplace books:


Sometimes, however, the subject calls for something little extra and then I can treat the commonplace journal more as a visual journal and I end up with something more artsy. Like these pages:


This is from a newspaper column where kids can ask questions from real experts. In this Sofia wants to know why there are such things as dirty words. The professor of linguistics gives such a clever answer that I thought it deserved something extra as a background.

And the spread below on the left is a comment from an Russian tourist in North Korea saying that ‘In comparison to North Korea the Soviet Union in the 1980s was a free and groovy democracy.’ (Oh, wait, I made that almost exactly nine years ago! Groovy!) On the right is another question from an Q&A column called Torsti Tietää (Torsti Knows). A reader wants to know it its true what they said in Supersize Me that there is something called casomorphin in cheese which supposedly makes one addicted to cheese. Yes, there is but it’s an all natural ingredient of milk. Adults’ digestion breaks down casomorphin and so it doesn’t get absorbed into adults’ circulation but infants digestion can’t do that and so their body absorbs casomorphin which then helps infants to calm down and to sleep longer. Pretty clever, isn’t it!


Few years ago I decided to keep a special book for poems I really like but, as it often does, life happened and I only got two poems done. No matter, that special commonplace book will fare just fine in my library for now. One day I will pick it up again and add the third one into it. I already have the poem written down on some paper scrap. Until then I’ll just keep looking for interesting things for my current common commonplace book.


The Coolest Thing to See in The Kon-Tiki Museum Is…



… this scull with a picture of a fish carved into its forehead. It’s from the Easter Islands and they suspect that it probably is the scull of a shaman or a tribal leader. Why else would you carve a fish into it? Of course it must be some how special but maybe it was made special by carving the fish into it and not the other way round. But who knows. This is the handicap of archeology: there are seldom eyewitnesses around to tell us what the heck it is that we just unearthed.

I mentioned the Kon-Tiki Museum in the previous post but it’s such a special museum that it deserves to get a post of its own. Kon-Tiki is the name of the balsa raft the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his crew used to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1947 just to prove that the South American cultures could have sailed all the way to the west across the ocean. Heyerdahl did a similar trip a cross the Atlantic on the Ra II made out of papyrus reeds to prove that you could do that with ancient Egyptian technology. The first Ra didn’t make it. The second proved the point. Heyerdahl had other adventures too but these are the famous ones. Not only did he prove that you could manage such journeys using ancient technology but his crew collected a lot of data about the state of the oceans during their travels. The dark, stone-looking lumps of oil on display in the museum are –. Well, let’s just say that they do make you think. Anyhow, the rafts are pretty awesome too and the exhibitions are breath taking.

But I have to admit, sculls and skeletons and any human remains in museums make me wonder if they really should be there. After all, they once used to be living persons. This scull, though, might be a slightly different thing since it used to be some kind of a ritual object so you could argue that it didn’t come from a burial. I don’t think its exactly okay to put on display human remains without the exact permission from the deceased or her/his relatives. But what about the mummies and other burials of ancient, long gone cultures? Burials are often the only thing or at least the most informative thing left of their lives.

The drawing is from my notes for my dissertation on museum exhibition architecture. You can’t always draw spaces and display structures. You gotta have your occasional scull there too.

Time Warping on the Fram



The last day of the Aesthetics conference in Oslo was a full working day followed by the conference dinner later in the evening so I saw an opportunity to stay in Oslo for an extra day. There may be no late, late night flights from Oslo to Helsinki but that’s besides the point. Who would want to drag their well nourished mind and body over to the airport in the middle of the night? So I had the Sunday to see what I had not yet seen in the Norwegian capital.

I had intended to revisit the Kon-tiki Museum – and it is a Great Place for Drawing you should go – but the last minute I decided against it and turned left to the Fram Museum. All I knew about the place was that it was a maritime museum that had won some big prize for its exhibition design. That’s it. The name sounded vaguely familiar but that was it. It doesn’t look like much from the outside (see the link, it really doesn’t) but I already had dragged myself to the Bygdøy peninsula (all the maritime museums of Oslo are there) so I went in. Was I in for a surprise!

The museum is practically built around the polar exploration ship Fram, launched in 1892 and the first ship built especially for polar explorations and to withstand getting stuck into the pack ice without getting crushed. It’s not a big ship, its one of the points of building an ship that can can withstand the contact with polar ice, but it is formidable. It is massive. Its hull bulks out in a different curvature than any other ship I have seen so far. It smells of wood tar like a proper ship ought to, and you can board it. You can walk on the deck, go bellow, all the way down to the engine room where it still reeks of diesel and oil and tar. The explorers – Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup – planned out their three year expedition very, very carefully. So carefully, in fact, that the crew actually gained much weight during the voyage, not something that usually happens when its freezing outside and you’re drifting with the pack ice across the arctic sea. Somehow it felt like all that planning and care and the voyages themselves had got imprinted into ship itself. As if you could feel the enthusiasm and excitement of the crew, the arctic weather, the force of the ice when you’re below deck, the swell of the ocean under the ship when you are on the deck. Literally, I felt really weird when I first boarded the Fram and it took me some time to realise that my body thought that the ship was moving.

They have a pretty cool multimedia show running in the exhibition hall with enticing sounds and changing lights, but I don’t know. The ship felt like alive somehow. As if it had got stuck into two timelines: still partly out there in the polar seas, partly here and now in the museum.

You should go there, really. My only warning is that you might want to go early in the day especially if you want to draw. It’s a fairly tightly packed museum and one of the regular tour sites, so when the tour buses arrive it can get congested. But if you are ever in Oslo, go. I mean it.

Oh, BTW, while Photoshopping the scan I pressed the wrong buttons at one point and accidentally turned the picture into a negative. Look’s fun and interesting, or what?


A Commonplace Book. So That’s What It’s Called.


I was visiting Cawdor Castle, Scotland, two years ago (once again) and I bought a book titled Thistle in Aspic – Leaves From the Commonplace Book of Hugh Cawdor by the dowager countess. First of all, if you’re ever in that neck of the woods, you should visit the place. Gardens are great and the castle itself is really interesting. The late earl, 6th in the row, Hugh wrote interesting and pretty different introductory texts for each room. That in itself is, I think, a pretty good reason for a visit: it’s not often you see giggling and laughing visitors in such places. But the main point for mentioning Cawdor is the title of that book: until I saw it in the castle bookshop, I had no idea that the books I had been keeping were called commonplace books and that they had hundreds of years of history. You can read more about that here, in Quinn McDonald’s blog, where we have been talking about it too. She took the time and the look into the history and kindly put together a post about it. Thanks!

My first commonplace book was inspired by the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy & co. race after the Holy Grail with the help of Indy’s father’s journal into which he has compressed all he knows about the Grail. That was well before The English Patient which also features a commonplace book (you could say that the books is one of the characters) and is often mentioned as an source that popularised commonplace books. But the third Indy came first, that’s all I’m saying, and I wanted to have something as cool as that. So I got myself a journal, covered it in leather and got on with it. I put everything in it, just as I should: poems, thoughts, quotes, cartoons I cut out of papers, news articles, and pictures of all kind. Here’s a spread containing the opening lines of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead:CommonPlace01

The next one was a slightly larger one, once again with leather covers, but the paper quality was slightly poorer. I made sure the third one came with better paper. I meant to make leather covers for it too, but never did. Who knows why.


The left page is a cartoon from a newspaper. The character (a self portrait of the cartoonist) says: ‘Eternity will always exists in the endless chain of universes. That’s why non-existence can never exist… There is only is and with it the life repeating eternally in all its glory… All that was told by liverwort!’ In my first commonplace book I have written down short Buddhist anecdote where a flower is used in a similar meaning. On the right is a short article titled ‘The Horses Were Missed by the Whole Village,’ a story about warhorses and how they came back home after the second world war. Sadly I have failed to write down the date for that article, but it must be sometime in October 2001 I think.

And then there is this interesting poem/song in that same book:


I have written under it ‘An English folk song “older than everyone thinks…” ‘. I know I got it from a book that dealt with English folk traditions but which one. Would be so interesting to know more. What do the numbers in it symbolise? I get the seven (the Big Dipper, obviously) but what about the others?

The latest one is more like a scrapbook as I have put  much more effort in the layouts etc. but I’ll write a special post about that some other time. But there’s a small treat still left. My first commonplace books ends with this page. The newspaper add says: ‘For sale Cats: Charming, gelded and vaccinated kittens without a home. Call…’ and then, under it: ‘A white, of assignment age, BRITISH boy. Registered. Affordable.’ Oh, dear. I hope every caller read the title…


Designer Dress Code

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Last month I attended this seminar on contemporary museum architecture in Kiasma, Helsinki. I entered the theater where they hold these kinds of functions about 10 minutes before the first presentation and most of the seats were already taken. My jaw dropped when I saw the audience. Never seen anything like it before. It seemed everyone was wearing black, grey, browns or muted whites (only as an complementary colour, not as the main one, mind you). There were suits. And elegantly wrapped scarfs. Knitted stuff. And reading glasses pushed up on one’s head.

I had a bright red hoodie. And faded jeans.

Dear me. Talk about being underdressed.

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