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Maggie Chok

Museum of Lost Objects

Looted Sumerian Seal, Baghdad
BBC Radio 4: Museum of Lost Objects Series (10 episodes)
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“A female goddess so powerful and respected that she made her thrown out of a man.”

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria.

This is the oldest and smallest object in the series: a tiny Sumerian cylinder seal depicting a harvest festival. It was carved in 2,600 BC and was part of the collection of ancient cylinder seals which disappeared when the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was looted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We tell the story of this seal and the pillaging of the country’s most important museum.

Contributors: Lamia al-Gailani, SOAS; Mazin Safar, son of Iraqi archaeologist Fuad Safar; John Curtis, Iran Heritage Foundation

(Source: BBC Radio 4—The Documentary)

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A dream of no pillow

(Source: Discogs—Tomo Akikawabaya)

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Passing Show

Tsh 2500-5000
Malawi Rd
Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Mingle with the locals and enjoy inexpensive pilaus, goat and fish biryani, stewed vegetables and an assortment of deep-fried snacks. To accompany it order a glass of fresh, sweet tamarind juice. If you want to nab a spot on the small shaded patio come early or late to miss the lunch crowd.


(Source: Lonely Planet—Zanzibar, Migrationology—Mark Wiens)

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The Mountains of the Moon

The Rwenzori Mountains (the Mountains of the Moon) are a mountain range of eastern equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwenzori mountains support glaciers and are one source of the river Nile. The Rwenzori Mountains reach heights up to 5,109 metres (16,762 ft). The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped, and along with Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the only such ones in equatorial Africa. Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park are located in the range.

The mountains formed about three million years ago in the late Pliocene epoch and are the result of an uplifted block of crystalline rocks including gneiss, amphibolite granite, and quartzite. They are on the flanks of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. The range is about 120 kilometres (75 mi) long and 65 kilometres (40 mi) wide. The rock is metamorphic, and the mountains are believed to have been tilted and squeezed upwards by plate movement. They are in an extremely humid area, and frequently enveloped in clouds.

The Rwenzori are known for their vegetation, ranging from tropical rainforest through alpine meadows to snow. The range supports its own species and varieties of giant groundsel and giant lobelia and even has a six metre high heather covered in moss that lives on one of its peaks. Most of the range is now a World Heritage Site and is covered jointly by the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in southwestern Uganda, and the Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

(Source: Images—Boris Buschardt + mixed, Wikipedia—Rwenzori Mountains)

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Le Sac de Michèlle Obama

The process of naming our fabrics was initiated by traders. Handling products that are numbered was problematic because not all traders could read. So they gave our fabrics a name. That’s how it all began. Now of course, it could be inspired by the visitation of a famous dignitary – Michelle Obama, especially if she was holding a Louis Vuitton bag as she disembarked the plane. Or so the story goes.

VL047981 VL048167
VL047980 VL048168

(Source: Vlisco Stories—Le Sac de Michelle Obama)

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Water Margin

Water Margin is a novel attributed to Shi Nai’an and considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. The novel is written in vernacular Chinese rather than Classical Chinese.

The story, set in the Song dynasty, tells of how a group of 108 outlaws gathers at Mount Liang (or Liangshan Marsh) to form a sizable army before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces. It has introduced to readers many of the best-known characters in Chinese literature, such as Wu Song, Lin Chong and Lu Zhishen.

Stories about the outlaws became a popular subject for Yuan dynasty drama. Even though the 108 outlaws came from different backgrounds (including scholars, fishermen, imperial drill instructors etc.), all of them eventually came to occupy Mount Liang (or Liangshan Marsh). There is a theory that Water Margin became popular during the Yuan era as the common people (predominantly Han Chinese) resented the Mongol rulers. The outlaws’ rebellion was deemed “safe” to promote as it was supposedly a negative reflection of the fallen Song dynasty. Concurrently, the rebellion was also a call for the common people to rise up against corruption in the government. The Chongzhen Emperor of the Ming dynasty, acting on the advice of his ministers, banned the book as a means of preventing revolts.

The novel, praised as an early “masterpiece” of vernacular fiction, is renowned for the “mastery and control” of its mood and tone. The work is also known for its use of vivid, humorous and especially racy language. However, it has been denounced as “obscene” by various critics since the Ming dynasty.

(Source: Wikipedia—Water Margin)

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Carpet Snake Dreaming

The Rainbow Snake or Rainbow serpent is a common deity, often a god like creator of water in the mythology and a common motif in the art of Aboriginal Australia. Stories about the Rainbow Serpent have been passed down from generation to generation but the serpent story, itself, may vary according to environmental differences. Tribes of the monsoonal areas depict an epic interaction of the sun, Serpent, and wind in their Dreamtime stories, whereas tribes of the central desert experience less drastic seasonal shifts and their stories reflect this. It is known both as a benevolent protector of its people (the groups from the country around) and as a malevolent punisher of law breakers. The Rainbow Serpent’s mythology is closely linked to land, water, life, social relationships, and fertility. The most common motif in Rainbow Serpent stories is the Serpent as creator, with the Serpent often bringing life to an empty space.

Dreamtime (or The Dreaming or Tjukurrpa or Jukurrpa) stories tell of the great spirits and totems during creation, in animal and human form that moulded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains, and gorges as it pushed upward. The Rainbow Serpent is understood to be of immense proportions and inhabits deep permanent waterholes and is in control of life’s most precious resource, water. The close affinity between water and snakes may stem from the presence of most snakes in the vicinity of permanent water. The Walmadjari people of the deserts of the Northern Territory see the spirit of water as the Carpet Snake. This is of scientific interest in that carpet snakes cannot survive long without water and are almost always found near water sources.

(Source: Wikipedia—Rainbow Serpent, Jay Griffiths—Wild)

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Moon Lee

(Source: Google Maps—London, UK)

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Who are you and what is your purpose?

(Source: Discogs—Thomas Brinkmann)

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Focus Puller

You won’t believe it — I didn’t — but the person responsible for keeping each and every shot of a movie in focus never looks through a camera lens.

“No,” says focus puller Baird Steptoe. “We do not look through the camera at all.”

Steptoe has worked as a first assistant cameraman on films from The Sixth Sense to Thor to last year’s Grownups Two. He says he’s learned to judge distances — precise distances — with his naked eye alone.

“I mean, I can tell you roughly from you to me right now,” he says. “I would say about 2-11.”

Two feet 11 inches, that is. Not that I brought along a tape measure for corroboration. But Steptoe has an eye you don’t mess around with. On a movie, if he’s wrong, he could lose his job.

Turns out focus pullers don’t look through the lens because the camera operators do that — they’re busy framing the shot, panning and tilting, and they don’t have a spare hand to focus in and out. So in Hollywood, where everything takes a village, pulling focus has become a separate operation, a job all to itself.


(Source: NPR Special Series—Keen Eyes, Uncanny Instincts Keep Films In Sharp Focus)

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