Sunday, May 28, 2006

getting under the skin

Those who have known me a while will be surprised at my interest in an exhibition that is at times a bit gruesome. Anatomy Acts, at the City Art Gallery, explores "the social, cultural and scientific significance of anatomy in Scotland over the past 500 years". Contemporary commissions sit alongside ancient texts, exquisite medical and anatomical illustrations, and plenty of objects to trigger that funny feeling in my legs.

You see, I'm a fully paid-up member of the squeamish society. My imagination runs away with me on matters medical. I even managed to faint in first aid class (giving fellow-students a practical case-study on which to test their new found knowledge of the recovery position). The trigger was nothing more than a photo - quite a famous one - of a long-jumper mid-flight, his fractured shinbone protruding obviously. Ouch!

So what was a wimp like me doing at this medical-themed exhibition, examining with interest the tanned skin of a soldier - gory war souvenir; a collection of delicate, dangerous surgical instruments in a velvet-lined case; elegant drawings of men and women holding open their own chests or stomachs, to reveal the anatomy within? Not fainting, this time. I have recently rediscovered an enthusiasm for science, and especially a fascination for the spaces where art, history and science intersect. Like the best art, anatomy in this exhibition invokes feelings of shock, awe, wonder. It reveals dark secrets, tells us something of ourselves and our past (in Edinburgh, home to Burke and Hare, a somewhat murky one!).

The highlight for me, though, was the exhibition of commissioned poems by the fabulous Kathleen Jamie (her Findings was my favourite book of 2005) alongside the objects that had inspired them. I can't find any of them online, though. You'll just have to go see the exhibition for yourself...

If you're too far away, there are some Renaissance drawings on this site.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

culture old and new in ultramodern Seoul

I'm just back from six days in Seoul - a city I liked enormously. It's full of juxtapositions and incongruities that make it fascinating. Here are just 2. The first is in downtown Seoul, but its name escapes me. Ancient monument of some sort, modern skyscraper.

The second is a Buddhist temple that was just across the road from the COEX exhibition centre where our conference was, and one of the few old things in an otherwise relentlessly modern (and consequently not so appealing, although there was some spectacular architecture on display) glass and concrete part of town.

Last is the recently reclaimed Chonggyechon, an inner city stream that used to be covered by a road. Quite an improvement. It's a popular haunt of courting couples - a frequent sight throughout the city.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

in Seoul, hello

This is just a quirky building opposite the collosal COEX behemoth in Seoul, where I'm attending a conference about science communication. I arrived yesterday, but haven' t had a chance to see much yet, outside of the conference venue and enormous shopping mall/foodcourt that lies beneath. Everything in this part of town very modern, except the buddhist temple across the road in amongst all the skyscrapers.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Third year lucky. I've wanted to visit Charles Jencks' Garden of Cosmic Speculation ever since mum told me about it a couple of years ago. It's only open one day per year, which this year happened to be today. The first rainy day in a week, sadly, but I couldn't be put off. In 2004 I was working, and last year, it was Shane and Steph's wedding. In fact, A. telling me that they were away this weekend to celebrate their anniversary was a lucky prompt on Friday to check the dates. So, rain or shine, today was the day to make the trek out to Portrack House.

When we left Edinburgh we could barely see in front of our bumper through the smirr. Heading west, things remained damp but clearer and brighter. I wished I had worn my pink wellies!

The garden was well worth a bit of dampness, though. The intricate details of the DNA garden are thoroughly engaging, from the palindromes in the paving to the wave forms in beautifully wrought gates. Six sculptural pieces combine double helix forms with representations of the senses. Outside these gates, your senses are called into action as scale increases exponentially. You get to clamber over Nonsense, wonder about quarks, smell heady scents that more botanically minded folk could no-doubt identify, reel at the riot of rhodedendron colour, hear how the Crow Wood got its name, and walk up spiral mounds and down again, wondering how come you never bump into anyone travelling in the opposite direction. It's a place of beauty, stillness, activity, wonder, marvel, colour, texture. There are more pics here, but here's one of my favourites, part of the "Scottish Worthies" railway walk:

Friday, May 05, 2006

would you like starch with that?

For the first time in what feels like forever, it's been a normal week of home, work, no travels or filming, just regular Edinburgh life. It's been great! The sun has been shining - hot enough for lunch in Princes St Gardens and a picnic on the Meadows this evening. There are people outside everywhere, every eating and drinking establishment in the city has found some outdoor furniture and a patch of pavement, Auld Reekie feels surprisingly continental. And everyone's happy.

The evenings are long and light too. Soccer (or here, football) started up this week, and unlike last year, I was brave enough to go along. Also on the Meadows, near where we've been playing golf and picnicked this evening, it's an informal affair, with jumper goalposts and teams arranged by t-shirt colours, mixed guys and girls. It's the first time I've played soccer in at least 5 years, and the first time in as long that I've really used a lot of the muscles in my legs, judging by the discomfort now! It was fun, though.

I called A. on my way back from soccer, to see if I should pick anything up:
"I don't know, maybe some dinner."
"I thought you were making dinner."
"I did but it's pretty bad."
"It can't be that bad."
It was, actually. Up there with the broccoli stalks incident. He's not afraid to be experimental in the kitchen...not always a good thing. Found come cannelli beans in the cupboard, and looked up a recipe for them. Cannelli bean puree, that sounds good. Missed part 2 of the recipe, which suggests serving with "the copious juices from sloppy stews". That's kinda different to pasta, which doesn't come with it's own sloppy juices.

So the dish: some slightly over-sauteed garlic and suspect bacon, mixed with aforementioned cannelli beans (pureed with some week-old white wine), served with (adhering firmly to) rigatoni. The adhesion applied to anything else it came in contact with too - the roof of my mouth, throat, ribs, plate, get the picture. Sticky and starchy. But excellent pizzas yesterday, so all is forgiven.