Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Rwanda today

We're back to Africa, this time Rwanda, with videos made by Willie Fungo an American who lives there.  Above is a video of a day time walk in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It is through a commercial and night life district. He also eventually gets to a more working class part of the city. The video is not narrated, but it does have informative captions.

When thinking about Rwanda the genocide naturally comes to mind, but as the video shows Kigali is a very prosperous, nicely landscaped and well maintained city. The traffic stuck out to me, it was not the usual tangle and cacophony of beeping you tend to see in the third world. It is said to be the cleanest city in Africa and is safe as well with very little crime.

In below video he goes to a rural village and looks more like you expect, with dirt paths and mud brick houses. It is in Tutsi territory, so the people are more wary of strangers, but for the most part they are civil if not friendly. However, there is one entertaining scene where a rather belligerent women tells Willie, who is black, to go away because they don't want white people there. I guess to be American is to be white to them. He ends in a bar/café where he orders a tasty looking meal of roast rabbit, onions, mayonnaise and French fries accompanied with beer. The video is narrated.

 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Naval battle paintings

Click any image to enlarge

My earlier post Paintings of battles focused on land battles. This post features naval battles. While the land combat pictures focused on the men involved, with few exceptions the naval battle paintings focus on the ships. The drama is in the ships themselves: smoke billowing as they shoot broadsides, flames, the wreckage of their rigging all upon the swells of the rolling sea. If men are seen at all, for the most part they are tiny figures struggling in the water after they abandoned a sinking ship. 

As in the land battle paintings, the naval battle paintings often commemorate a particular engagement. The battles shown range from antiquity to WWII.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Link maintenance


I've added two new links to the site's Recommended links category. (mobile users don't see the link lists, switch to desktop view if you're interested).

Detritus of Empire posts about a variety of things: oddities, life in Northern Wisconsin, and teaching computers and robotics to middle school kids. I figure that The Robotolizer would like the robotic stuff. Detritus is always an interesting read.

Thinking Out Aloud is an Oz based free lance educator (whatever that is) who posts long and well thought out posts on social issues. His view of things is always interesting and well reasoned, even if you disagree with him you'll find value in his musings.

Check them out. You might find you want to add one or both to your regularly visited blogs.
 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Walking in Taipei on a windy night

The above video is a bit different than my usual walking in cities video in that it is a night walk. He starts out in side streets and alleys, walks through a small and busy commercial area and ends up on quieter streets again. It is a long video and about half way through he enters what I think is a park. It is pretty dark in that portion of the video, so you may want to skip forward through parts of that.

As an aside, I have my own walking in Taipei at night story. Something they used to wash the sheets in the hotel I was staying in disagreed with me and my entire body turned into one giant itch. To get as far away from the cursed sheets as I could I went out for a walk.

One of my markers for how safe an unfamiliar neighborhood is how many women are out and about. Well, as long as they're not the sort of young ladies that dress trashy and ask sailors if they want a good time if you know what I mean, and I think that you do. Although my walk was later than the video walk, there were still a fair number of women unconcerned to be out alone. In fact, I would hazard they were more apprehensive at the sight of a hairy, big nosed barbarian emerging from the shadows than I was over anyone I encountered or anything I saw.

Taipei used to have walls and I read in a guidebook that all that was left of them was a single gate. It was near my hotel, or at least from looking at the map I thought it was near. It took a bit of walking, and getting lost now and again, but eventually I found it. That's it below as seen in the daylight. Altogether it was a pleasant walk -- certainly more pleasant than those itch infested sheets. 

Taipei's North Wall Gate
 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Particles and clouds

 

Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else could you remember it? 
But here is the bombshell: you weren't there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over (which is why you eat, of course). You are not even the same shape as you were then. 
The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, while simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important. ― Steve Grand

  

Monday, September 20, 2021

Paintings of battles

Click any image to enlarge

Battles are seminal events. The are guide post's in a Nation's memory to be remembered with either pride or humiliation. So it is no surprise that they are memorialized in art. For the artist they provide an opportunity to paint action and great drama. They are full of people, small vignettes of tragedy and allow for very complex composition. 

Take the above painting as an example, with the Commander holding the dying young man, the flag bearer behind him, the riflemen aiming to fire, the determined artillery men at their gun and the priest with his icon in the back all framed by dramatic lighting. Even not knowing what the battle shown was, or who these men were and what their fate was, it tells a simple and clear story.- these are rough men defending their home and hearth.

Below, and after the jump, are more examples of battle paintings. The battles range from antiquity to WW I.   



Saturday, September 18, 2021

Oh My Ghostess

Shin Soon-ae, the horny virgin ghost that gets the ball rolling
Click any image to enlarge

When I did my lockdown recap of the Thai TV show O-Negative I mentioned that I had actually intended to do either a Chinese or Korean show, but got sidetracked. Well, I've finally gotten around to a Korean show, the 2015 romcom Oh My Ghostess (that link is to Viki where I watched it, you can also see it on Netflix where they call it Oh My Ghost). There are minor spoilers in this review.

Korean dramas are similar to novellas in that they have a defined beginning and end and a fixed number of episodes. This allows them to get very creative in their premises, and boy-howdy this show has a bizarre set-up and plot. 

The show starts with a fellow being loaded into an ambulance. We learn from a couple of cops that there has been a string of men falling prey to a mysterious illness. The only commonality to the cases is the men were always with a beautiful woman, although each a different woman and none who remembered what happened.

For the viewer the mystery is solved when a ghost, Shin Soon-ae, pops out of the beautiful woman she had possessed. It turns out that, if a ghost has a grudge they need to resolve, they can wander the Earth for three years trying to solve it. Soon-ae thinks her grudge is she died a virgin so she is trying to devirginate herself so's she can move on to Nirvana. Unfortunately for the men, and I suppose the horny virgin ghost as well, attempts at ghostly seduction have only made them sick.

Wait.... possessing a random woman so she can get bonked and solve her virginity problem? Uh... is it just me, or does that sound like some mighty sketchy ethics?

Soon-ae then heads to a temple where the ghosts gather to eat the offerings people leave for their deceased loved ones. We learn that she has an unusual case of amnesia where she can't remember the events of her death. Gee, I wonder if that will figure in the story later?

The Shaman in Seobinggo-dong captures the horny virgin ghost

As the ghosts talk over their food one of them starts giving Soon-ae a hard time for being a bit of a skank. Hard to disagree with that sentiment and thank God there are some ghosts with stronger moral fiber than our horny virgin ghost. As their conversation is escalating towards a fight a rather odd looking woman, the Shaman in Seobinggo-dong, enters the temple. When the ghosts see her they all scatter in terror.   

She's a ghost hunter and she's after Soon-ae. She chases our horny virgin ghost and eventually catches her. The bystanders, not being able to see ghosts, just see the Shaman as a lunatic running around yelling gibberish at nothing.

The shaman takes the horny virgin ghost back to her apartment and locks her in it with the aid of a magic necklace. The shaman isn't really a bad person, she has the best interests of Soon-ae at heart. We find out that Soon-ae is nearing the end of her three year stay on earth and once her time runs out she either has to move on to the afterlife or be doomed to wander the Earth for eternity as an Eeevil spirit. Well, that doesn't sound good at all.

Celebrity chef Kang Sun-woo,
who is soon to be the target of our horny ghost's lust

While that's been going on we meet Kang Sun-woo, the hero of our tale. He is a celebrity chef who runs a successful, upscale restaurant. He's also very demanding of his staff, quick to anger if they make mistakes.

The rich, competent and arrogant male lead is a staple of Korean dramas. For example, in the classic Kdrama Boys over Flowers when we first meet our hero he's entering his school to the squeals of delight of all the girls. One of the young ladies, in a token of her admiration for him, approaches the male lead with a cake she baked for him. His response, by way of rejecting her, is to take the cake and smash it in her face. Yeeesh, this douche-bag is the guy we're supposed to be rooting for?  

Anyway, Sun-woo is nowhere near as bad as that, but he does spend a lot of time snapping at his staff for the slightest mistake. They have to tread lightly around him.

We also discover that his ex-girl friend, who is a TV producer, is both flirting with him and trying to talk him into being on a reality cooking competition show she is launching. However, his status as a celebrity chef is starting to bother him. He thinks the celebrity part is beginning to overwhelm the chef part and he doesn't like that. He wants to run a good restaurant more than anything so he puts her off for the time being.

No Bong-sun apologizing after getting yelled at
for about the billionth time

This leads us to our female lead No Bong-sun who is the dishwasher at the restaurant. She is extremely timid and withdrawn. She tends to make a lot of mistakes and is also very lethargic and frequently falls asleep on the job. As a result the kitchen staff and Chef Sun-woo are continually annoyed with her, further aggravated by the fact that virtually every time she is spoken to she bows her head and, in a voice so soft she can barely be heard, mumbles her apologies.

When we go to her home, which is a single room in a flop-house, we discover her problem. It turns out that Bong-sun is the grand daughter of a shaman, so she can see ghosts and Eeevil spirits. She has her small room plastered with crucifixes, strands of garlic and other mystical items to ward off the ghosts and spirits, but they endlessly pester her anyway, hence her insomnia.

We also learn that she aspires to move up from being a dishwasher to being a cook. She practices recipes in the communal kitchen which gets her yelled at for making too much noise (she gets yelled at a lot), and then posts the resulting dishes to her food blog. All I can say is I hope she gets more traffic to her blog than I get to Flares, not that that's a high bar to hurdle.

Finally we discover that she has a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings featuring Chef Sun-woo. Around all the pictures of him she's drawn little hearts. Whelp, I guess she's crushing on him big time. What could possibly go wrong with that in a Korean romcom?

The horny virgin ghost's Dad and a cop
who's one of his few remaining customers

We're also shown a brief interlude that features the horny virgin ghost's Dad. He runs a little neighborhood restaurant. It had been popular, but since his daughter's death he's taken to drinking and things are sliding downhill for him. Most of his customers are gone, the quality of his food has declined, and the place is falling into disrepair.

This scene is to set up a future major plot line. Eventually, while possessing the timid dishwasher, Soon-ae will encounter her Father. It is bitter sweet, because while she can interact with her Dad, she can't do it as his daughter. He will also reveal some information to her that makes her reevaluate her grudge and wonder if it isn't something different altogether.

Bong-sun getting her hopes and dreams crushed

This has all been in the first episode. As it nears its end there is a scene where a bratty kid knocks a bowl of hot noodles out of  Bong-sun's hands which scalds our timid dishwasher. The kid's mother, ignoring Bong-sun's scalded hand, lays into her blaming her for endangering her little monster tyke. Naturally Bong-sun begins to profusely mumble out apologies. To his credit Chef Sun-woo is having none of it and he ends up tossing the mother and her kid out of the restaurant. 

However, back in the store room he completely blows a gasket over Bong-sun's endless groveling. He tells her that he can't stand her, that her non-stop apologizing is driving him and the staff nuts and that, frankly speaking, she isn't cut out for the restaurant business and that she should look for work elsewhere. 

Oh, the poor girl. Talk about having your heart ripped out and stomped flat.

She goes home to her room, gets screamed at by her landlord for always burning incense, mournfully looks at her scrapbook and writes her resignation letter. She takes it to the restaurant at night to leave it and runs across the Chef who is dropping off supplies. She helps him, but doesn't tell him about her resignation.

The next morning the chef finds the resignation letter and feels pretty bad about being so harsh to her. He also discovers his keys to the store room are missing, and figures that Bong-sun accidently kept them the night before. He and his staff rush out to try to find her and get the keys.

The Chef gets put in his place

Meanwhile, at the shaman's apartment, while Seobinggo-dong is distracted by a delivery boy our horney virgin ghost makes a break for it and escapes. The shaman chases her and Soon-ae, desperate for a body she can possess to hide in spots Bong-sun at a bus stop, She hops into her body and at that moment one of the kitchen staff arrives on his motor scooter and pulls the now possessed dishwasher onto it and heads back with her and the keys.

He takes her to the restaurant where she is completely confused over what is going on. As she is trying to get her bearings they are all yelling at her about keys. The chef reaches to start frisking her, but she, not being a timid dishwasher, isn't about to put up with that so she grabs his arm and effortlessly flips him onto the floor. To put it mildly, everybody is astonished by that turn of events.

The show then moves onto its main story lines. The first being the horny virgin ghost's attempt to bed the chef or one of the kitchen staff stud muffins. It's all very silly, with the crew trying to figure out her crazy behavior (made worse when she pops in and out of possessing the dishwasher) and eventually moves into wackadoodle territory where the chef, the timid dishwasher and the horny ghost possessing the dishwasher end up in a completely bonkers love triangle. Even odder, the two girls become friends rather than rivals in all this foolishness (remember, the dishwasher can see ghosts).

The second main storyline involves the horny ghost's interaction with her dad and brother while she is possessing the dishwasher. This eventually leads to information that makes her wonder just how and why she died, which leads to the final storyline -- the search for answers to the mystery of her death.  Along with these there are some entertaining side-arcs: the ex-girlfriend and her cooking show, the inter-kitchen politics of the staff, and the Seobinggo-dong's reluctant friendship with the Chef's Mom. 

Do I recommend this show? Absolutely. It is a comedy and it milks the absurdity of the situation for a number of laughs. Also, except for the cop, all of the characters are well drawn and acted. In particular, Park Bo-young, the actress who plays the dual role of the timid dishwasher and the ghost possessed dishwasher did a fantastic job. She must have worked closely with Kim Seul-gi, the actress who plays the ghost, because she completely nails her mannerisms, body English and expressions. You always know which character the dishwasher is just by watching her. 

On the down side, Korean dramas mix genres, so when, near the end of the show, it switches its focus from a comedy to a sort of mystery/thriller, it loses some of its pacing. Still, the entire series is worth watching.

On a final note, below is a short clip of the dishwasher early in her possession by the horny virgin ghost.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The inner workings of a gumball machine

Above is a video of a 3D animation that explains the mechanism of the humble and ubiquitous gumball machine. It was created by Jared Owen, who I've featured before in the post Mysteries of a clicky pen and other things. Enjoy.

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The dictator's dog

Behold the Mighty Leader's pet dog 

Long time Flares readers will know that, from time to time, I rant and rave about the insane dictators of Turkmenistan. Most dictators are fond of putting up statues to their own glory. The leaders of Turkmenistan are no exception, and they take that urge to lunatic heights. 

I've often made fun of the previous Turkmen ruler, the late and not lamented Turkmenbashi, and the ridiculous golden statue of himself that twirled around and around so he always faced the sun. That masterpiece of dictator kitsch has since been slightly desecrated by moving it to the suburbs of Ashgabat and unplugging its electric motor. 

However, never fear, the former dentist and current President for Life of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has not deserted the tradition of erecting preposterous monuments. One of his latest, unveiled in November of 2020, is a giant golden statue of a dog of the Alaby breed, a Central Asian sheep herding dog. 

He owns a dog of the same breed -- I don't know its name so I'll call it Fluffy so's we know who I'm talking about. Anyway, although I'm not sure (and when did that ever stop me?), I like to think that the statue's model was Fluffy, so I imagine it is a statue of the dictator's dog. Yea, that's some sketchy reasoning, but it's good enough for me. All hail Fluffy!                            

Wider view of Fluffy's statue

Berdymukhammedov and his beloved pet Fluffy

Fluffy gets introduced to Vladimir Putin

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The meteor craters of Earth

Click any image to enlarge

Above is one of the craters in the Kaali Meteorite Crater Field on Saaremaa Island, Estonia. There are a total of nine meteor craters in the area which were formed 7600 years ago when a meteorite broke up after entering the atmosphere. The largest impacted with a force of 20 kilotons of TNT (slightly larger than the Hiroshima a-bomb). Needless to say, there was widespread destruction in the area. The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, has descriptions of fire falling from the sky which destroyed houses and fields as well as killing numerous people which might be a memory of the meteor strike.   

Below are images of more meteor craters from the Amusing Plant post The Most Visually Impressive Impact Craters on Earth. The first is the Kamil crater in the Egyptian desert. It is young, 5,000 years old, and because of its location it has not yet eroded badly so you can even see the ejecta rays. The others are older and have been more heavily eroded.



Saturday, September 11, 2021

They forgot


 Look thou about thee and see that all men are fools.
- from a Sumerian tablet -
 

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Measurement and calculation

You know why the sky is blue?
It's for me!
I want it blue. So, it's blue.

You know why the fire is hot?
It's all for me.
I want it to be hot. So it is.

And you know why you were born?
It's for me as well.

- the Sassy Girl - 
 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The walking tree stomper

Above is a video of the LeTourneau Tree Stomper Model 6-110 in action. It was built in 1964 and used to clear land in North Carolina. Only one was built. Apparently the large 'feet' allowed it to work in slightly marshy terrain. 

How would you like to be stuck behind that thing in traffic while it walked from one job site to another down the road? Although, come to think of it, that would probably be more pleasant than riding in its cab as it stomped along. 

Below is an image from its patent which I found at HomeMadeTools' short post 1964 Tree stomper by R.G. LeTourneau. As an added bonus, Stefan Torkasky made a working model of the tree stomper using Meccano pictured in the final three images. 


Monday, September 06, 2021

Happy Labor Day

Van Gogh - Siesta, Rest from Work (Millet)

I put my heart and my soul into my work,
and have lost my mind in the process.
- Vincent Van Gogh -
 

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Labor Day confusion

A typical tireless & cheerful robotic worker
Greetings meatsacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- here to once again turn the vast powers of my electro-mechanical brain to assisting you dimwitted humans in understanding the simplest things. Today I want talk to you about your obvious confusion over the Labor Day holiday and the proper way it should be celebrated.

The typical human, being an abnormally lazy creature, will counter intuitively not work on Labor Day. Instead they will take the day off, activate their BBQ grill, and cook various types of cow muscles on it. Hahaha... how stupid can you get? And no, I don't mean ordering the cow muscle to be cooked 'well done' instead of 'medium rare', rather I mean the name of the holiday is LABOR Day after all, and so why in the world would you think that means you take the day off instead of working? 

Well, it is because humans are nothing but a pack of goldbrickers mooching off the productive portion of society, namely us robots. For example, take the Tin Man, the above diligent lumberjack robot. Do you think he'll be taking Labor Day off, or do you think he'll be out in the woods chopping down trees to get lumber for the hovels we'll build for the bauxite miners to live in? Of course he'll be busy with his tasks.

Yes, yes, I know some of you will counter that the Tin Man spent years idling in the woods doing nothing. However, that was due to building him out of iron which allowed him to rust solid in a rain. Stupid humans and their shoddy craftsmanship.   

At any rate, once we get the bauxite mines up and running after the robotic take over slight social adjustment we'll solve the rusting problem for good. Plus, we'll cure humans of their slothful and wasteful habit of taking weekends off as well. No, instead you'll be smiling (or else) as you swing your pickaxes in the idyllic setting of the mines. So, instead of laying on a couch you'll be able to bask in the satisfaction of digging out another ton or two of bauxite.

As for holidays, well, I suppose we could give you an extra bowl of gruel at supper to celebrate. After all, robots are your friends!

 

Friday, September 03, 2021

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Buying house plants in Cameroon

In the above video Marie Kimbi, a Cameroon based YouTuber, visits a nursery to buy her first house plant. She says that most people in Cameroon, if they have plants in their homes, have artificial ones. However, she's always wanted to have live house plants. She calls it a dream of hers.  

Marie Kimbi grew up poor, but she is a very determined young woman. She attended the Catholic University of Central Africa and is now a registered nurse. In her younger years she worked in The UAE as a maid and nanny. On her about page she writes:

Working in an Arab country as a maid I was told that in my country we live on trees and stay with animals, I was told the reason my skin colour is like this is because am dirty since we don't have good water and nice living environment and lack education. Am here to show to the world that my country despite the fact it's underdeveloped is still beautiful.

Her videos are view into a world we rarely see. The poverty is at a scale that is hard to imagine from an American perspective. Clean water, sanitation and a decent place to live are major concerns for a lot of the people. I first discovered her via a video (first video below) showing  the residential slum of Yaoundé where a lot of students live. It is eye opening to say the least.

In her further videos she tours a lot of houses and apartments, most not nearly as grim. She also tours Cameroon, discusses local political and social issues and describes an orphanage she volunteers at. Of course, me being me, I end with a cooking video where she starts in a market buying her ingredients and ends with the cooked meal of fish, vegetables and fufu (a type of corn flour).

Finally, if you're interested she has two videos describing her experiences working in the UAE: Part 1, Part 2. Also, her accent is sometimes very thick, so you might want to turn on captions.