Ancient word of the day: Athene Noctua or Athena's Owl

Ancient word of the day: Athene Noctua or Athena’s Owl

The Greek goddess Athena had as her sacred animal familiar the owl, also known as the Athene Noctua in Latin. The Romans, fond as they were of stealing from the Greek pantheon, renamed Athena to Minerva. Athena and her owl are considered to be symbols of wisdom, in both cultures. Silver tetradrachm coin at the…

Book Review: Life in a Medieval Castle

Book Review: Life in a Medieval Castle by Frances and Joseph Gies

Life in a Medieval Castle is one of a series of compelling historical reference books written by acclaimed husband and wife historians Frances and Joseph Gies in the 1970's. Life in a Medieval Castle (along with companion books Life in a Medieval Village and Life in a Medival City) were re-released in 205 under the weight…

Every Picture Tells a Story: A brief and enchanting history of Australian milk bars

A brief and enchanting history of Australian milk bars

Originally the concept of the milk bar in America was also a spin-off from the ever-popular apotheke-style pharmacists who dispensed medicines and often refreshing milk-infused tinctures to waiting customers. The customers often milled around or sat on bar stools at a long galley-style counter top. Originally, the pharmacists mixed the medicine with their backs turned…

Gather up the night: An eerie hotel causes confusion on Melbourne's Eastlink freeway

Gather up the night: An eerie hotel causes confusion on Melbourne’s Eastlink freeway

As an occasional driver along the Eastlink in Melbourne, I have had the odd experience of passing a hotel with no trace of human habitation around it. A hotel completely devoid of people and life and yet that lights up in a unique configuration of lights from fake windows each night. Located in Melbourne's south…

Welcome to the most remote island in the world...Bouvetøya

Welcome to the most remote island in the world…Bouvetøya

Bouvetøya, also known as Bouvet Island is definitely a contender for the most remote place in the world. I discovered Bouvetøya via an excellent Tumblr with the understated title of Map Design. This is a treasure trove of cartography. Another is the seminal book The Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky.  This is a…

Historic Jukebox: Henry David Thoreau & Fleet Foxes http://wp.me/p41CQf-9V

Thirty great medieval epithets for people and beasts

Why do we say a gaggle of geese, a flock of sheep, a pride of lions or a swarm of bees? Well it harks back to medieval times when sportsmen grouped together collectives of beasties to refer to them in movement or attributing a quality to them - presumably while the poor creatures ran away…

Scotland's Momentous Decision on September 18th

Travel: A Survival Guide to Edinburgh Slang and Scots Words

If you ever go to Edinburgh and find yourself in one of its countless excellent pubs, you may want to strike up a conversation with one of the grave looking, old guys at the bar drinking pints. If so, you will want to be able to hold a conversation while also not making a fanny…

Here be the Viking Hoard: The Mystery of the Lewis Chessmen http://wp.me/p41CQf-ItW

Here be the Viking Hoard: The Mystery of the Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen were likely to have been made in Trondheim in Norway from walrus ivory. This kind of bone was hard to come across at the time (1150-1200 A.D), as it required hunting during a brief window of time per year in the Arctic Circle, using primitive hunting tools of the time and in…

Try out these scintillating, interactive Gustav Klimt paintings

Push the slider from left to right to see the Klimt paintings come alive... View slider Inge Prader is the photographer responsible for this highly stylised and sensual ensemble of beautiful models languidly posing in such scintillating and baroque surroundings. Inge has perfectly paid tribute to Klimt's legendary works. View slider View slider The occasion for…

Helen Keller's Fierce Friendships and Bold Legacy

Helen Keller’s Fierce Friendships and Bold Legacy

Helen Keller was not just some blind lass from the last century. She was a fierce socialist, pacifist, author and sufragette who believed in birth control, workers rights and women's rights. The first blind person to complete a Bachelor's Degree, she was a bold trailblazer with a sweet nature. Keller won hearts all over the…

Book Review: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Book Review: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Yeonmi Park has to be the bravest girl/woman in the world. She was born in the North Korean city of Hyesan which is separated by a river to the Chinese border and at the age of 13, she boldly and bravely managed to escape from there and gain her freedom. Yeonmi Park’s autobiography written at the…

Book Review: She Rises by Kate Worsley

Book Review: She Rises by Kate Worsley

*Contains no spoilers. She Rises is an erotic, sea-faring adventure by debut novelist Kate Worsley. Under the tutelage of mentor and maven of the historical novel Sarah Waters, Kate Worsley has created a beautifully sculpted jewel of a novel set in an Essex fishing village in 1740. A word to the wise, the book is…

Poetry and music from the film 'Wings of Desire' (Der Himmel uber Berlin)

Poetry and music from the film ‘Wings of Desire’ (Der Himmel uber Berlin)

One of my favourite films of all time is the Wim Wenders film The Wings of Desire known in German as Der Himmel uber Berlin. It won the Best Film at Cannes in 1987. Some of the magic  of this film comes from the music (Nick Cave, U2), the acting (Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin) and…

Book Review: Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Hariri

Most people are either not aware or don't care that the most pressing and revolutionary change in our world is right on our doorstep. The advance and rise of the machines. This is a book that tells the story of what happens next with the human species based on what came before and the technological…

Ten Great 'Old Man' Insults

Top Ten Greatest Old Man Insults

Put the kettle on and start eating some water crackers with lard on them. Just to get in the mood for this one... Nincompoop: Is said to come from the Latin legal and medical term Non Compos Mentis meaning 'not of sound mind'. This evolved into nincompoop meaning a stupid or dumb person. Flibbertigibbet: A flighty…

The Most Exquisite Tiny Books in the World

For all of the bookworms, here are some of the most exquisitely rendered miniature books in the world. As a warm up, here's a picture of the bombed-out Holland House library in London during WW2. The message was loud and clear. Readers won't be perturbed from doing what they love, no matter what else is…

The beautiful poetry of the Maori/Polynesian Star Compass - Atea a Rangi

Atea a Rangi: Star Maps of the Maori and Pacific Peoples

In the past, I've written about Maori sea navigation by the stars and the legend of Matariki. Although nothing prepared me for the utterly beautiful Maori star compass which has been carved and placed on a remote and wild beach in the Hawkes Bay, between Hastings and Napier. The Star Compass - Atea a Rangi…

Film Review: Cornershop (Kjötborg)

Film Review: Cornershop (Kjötborg)

This feel-good documentary is set in Reykjavík, Iceland on corner of Ásvallagata and Blómvallagata streets. Where there is a little unassuming grocery store called simply Kjötborg or Corner Shop. Two brothers own and run the local shop, which they inherited from their parents. This is the last bastion of stores like this, as many others…