Category Archives: Places

South Pole Scuffle

Also in the news today – a couple of men had “a drunken christmas punch up” at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, resulting in one having injuries serious enough to need medical evacuation to a hospital in New Zealand. Just as well it was summer over there, so that the injured fellow could be flown to hospital relatively easily (at great expense, which was the not-so-interesting angle the Australian press took).

I wouldn’t think it was the first time that things got a bit heated at the South Pole, so to speak. Bad puns aside, there are some fascinating articles here about the psychology of wintering at the Antarctic, for you not-so intrepid explorers out there.    

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Filed under Mental Health, Places, Psychology

Planning to build your own Great Pyramid? Check that copyright.

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Interesting news today as the Guardian reports that the Egyptian government plans to pass a law to have copyright on the country’s ancient monuments and museum pieces.

How this is going to be enforced is not clear, but one suspects the law is aimed at extracting cash from (amongst so many others) big Hollywood studios. Perhaps that remake of Cleopatra might be put on hold then.

Apparently private individuals will also have to ask for permission to build replicas. I guess I’m gonna rethink my plan to build the Sphinx as a garden ornament…

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Classic cinema @ the Action Écoles: 23 rue des Écoles, Paris

I have visited Paris a bunch of times since living in Europe, and as a love-struck tourist I can’t get enough. Aside from the culture, food, fashion, beautiful streets, reasurringly rude waiters etc., Paris is also a cinephiles dream.Action Ecoles cinema

I spend a fair amount of my time in Paris going to the cinema, as it is a brilliant place to see classic films. A suitable tonic to the multiplex, with its popcorn-munching patrons, there are a number of dedicated cinemas to the art-form dotted around the city (particularly on the Left Bank).

My favourite cinema to visit is the Action Écoles on 23 rue des Écoles, with two screening rooms and a penchant for showing American films from the 40s through to the early 80s. There are no advance tickets, you just queue outside and hope to get in (Five minutes before the tickets sell a crowd appears from nowhere).

A list of the films I have seen there over the past 7 years should give you a good idea of the quality at the Action Écoles: Casablanca; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But were afraid to Ask) ; Rosemary’s Baby; The Outsiders; Stand By Me; Notorious; To Catch a Thief; Lolita; Dr Strangelove; Love and Death; and Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

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Filed under Cinema, Places, Travel

A monument to pest control

In my home town of Dalby, Queensland there exists a monument in a small park by Myall Creek that has always seemed curious to me: it is a cairn dedicated to the cactoblastis cactorum (a moth originally found in Argentina).

Here are the details about it (from the Dalby Council website):

CACTOBLASTIS MEMORIAL CAIRN

A cairn was erected in Marble Street in 1965 to record the indebtedness of the people of Queensland (and Dalby in particular) to the Cactoblastis Cactorum. This tiny moth saved the Darling Downs from infestation by an introduced plant, the Prickly Pear.

A single, yellow flowering prickly pear was brought to Australia in 1839. By 1925 over 50 million acres of land in Queensland and New South Wales were covered with prickly pear, the greatest example known to man of any noxious plant invasion. The Dalby District was then heavily infested. It was impossible to effectively eradicate the weed either by sprays or cultivation. The land was rendered unusable and drove many from their farms.

The first eggs of the Cactoblastis Cactorum moth were imported from Argentina early in 1925 and were bred in very large numbers and liberated throughout the prickly pear territory. Within 10 years the insect had destroyed all the dense mass of prickly pear.

The cairn is located on Myall Creek as a lasting monument to the Cactoblastis Cactorum and its victory over the prickly pear menace.

For a long while I had wondered whether it was the only monument in the world to an insect, although I have subsequently learnt about the Boll Weevil Monument in the town of Enterprise, Alabama (which is, as you can see from the link, a grander monument than the humble cairn in Dalby).

The prickly pear cactus apparently was orginally brought to Australia with the First Fleet, as host cacti for the cochineal insect, exploited to produce a distinctive red dye (highly prized in Europe in the early 19th century and used, amongst other things, for the the British Red Coats). There was a strong economic imperative for the British Empire to establish an alternative source for cochineal dye at the time of colonisation, as it was produced solely in Mexico (which was under Spanish control). [Incidentally cochineal dye is still used today as a food colouring, E120]

Unfortunately, as the history of Australia has demonstrated several times, using introduced species can be a blessing and a curse, as cactoblastis cactorum is now poised to wreak havoc in Mexico. Following the successful Australian example of biological pest control, the moth has been used around the world to eradicate infestations of cacti on agricultural land, including in the Caribbean, which allows a short hurricane-blown trip to the Mexican shore… where there is plenty of nice, juicy cactus for caterpillars to chew on. The saviour has become the pest.

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Filed under Australia, Places