Archive for August, 2010

Brigitte’s Pick: Animal camouflage… only out of God’s hand

August 31, 2010

Another great pick, Brigitte! Outstanding coverage of the very opposite type of phenomena. Animal camouflage… only out of God’s hand !

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Brigitte’s Pick: Awesome Paper Art.

August 31, 2010

Well done, Brigitte! This post is spectacular …

Sculptures of Native American scenes made
out of paper by Allen and Patty Eckman.

These stunningly detailed sculptures may only be made from paper –

but they are being snapped up by art fans for tens of thousands of pounds.

The intricate creations depict Native American scenes and took

up to 11 months to make using a specially formulated paper.

Husband and wife team Allen and Patty Eckman put paper pulp

into clay moulds and pressurize it to remove the water.

The hard, lightweight pieces are then removed and

the couple painstakingly add detailed

finishing’s with a wide range of tools.

They have been making the creations since 1987 at their home studio,

in South Dakota, America, and have racked up a whopping

$3 million selling the works of art.

The pieces depict traditional scenes from Native

American history of Cherokees hunting and dancing.

The most expensive piece is called Prairie Edge Pow-Wow which sold for $47,000.

Allen said: “We create Indians partly because my great,

great grandmother was a Cherokee and my family on both sides

admire the native Americans.

…I work on the men and animals and Patty does the women and children” explains Allen.

“I enjoy most doing the detail. The paper really lends itself to unlimited detail.

I’m really interested in the Indians’ material, physical and spiritual culture and

that whole period of our nation’s history I find fascinating.

From the western expansion, through the Civil War and beyond is of great interest to me.”

Allen explained their technique: “It should not be confused with

papier mache. The two mediums are completely different.

I call what we do ‘cast paper sculpture'”

…”Some of them we create are life-size and

some we scale down to 1/6 life-size”

“These sculptures are posed as standing nude figures and

limited detailed animals with no ears, tails or hair”

“We transform them by sculpting on top of them – creating detail with

soft and hard paper we make in various thicknesses and textures.

“We have really enjoyed the development of our fine art techniques over

the years and have created a process that is worth sharing. There are

many artists and sculptors who we believe will enjoy this medium

as much as we have.”


August 31, 2010

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL: Conservation Pays in Namibia

There’s a notice on a board in Namibia’s Etosha National Park that reads, “When There’s Nothing at the Waterhole.”

OK, there’s usually something at the Okaukeujo water hole – dusty files of zebras trooping in through a phantom sea of mirages, thunderous elephants drinking, tank-like rhinos brawling, gaunt and panting lions, oh my! Quite a place, Etosha.

But there are slower times. Times when the sun beats down on a view of silent rock and shrivelled scrub; soporific, stifling times when a dreadful emptiness seems to envelope the place.  Times when there’s nothing at the waterhole.

Back to the sign! Beneath the headline, there is a list of what is at the waterhole, right under your nose (or over your head). Little things – a roosting owl, weaver birds, lizards, beetles, ground squirrels…  A host of tiny lives, so easily un-noticed, but so full of interest once one has become aware of them. And so important to the integrity of the whole ecosystem.

It is strange what one can overlook. And so readily. How one can fail to see the big picture by missing the small details that go to make it up.

Which brings me to Namibia’s national parks.  Globally, and in Namibia, Parks are an essential cornerstone for biodiversity conservation.  Namibia’s 21 parks cover 17%  of the country, but for years they’ve just been … there.

Not overlooked precisely.

Just taken as a given. Taken for granted.

Dedicated conservation officers cared for them, tourists came to marvel at them, but with prevailing poverty in the country and other traditional industries such as mining, agriculture and fisheries to invest in, the Government could not put enough resources in park management. 

How to meet challenge?  How to help the parks help themselves? After all, a national park on paper may look good. But in reality, if it is to serve any purpose, it needs people to run it, patrol it, maintain fire breaks, monitor wildlife and vegetation, solve human/wildlife conflict on the fringes, care for its employees (and with HIV AIDS this is currently a big issue), manage visitors etc.

So how to get the Parks noticed? How to get them valued?  Value. That was the word. There is the cliché about the man who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched the Strengthening Protected Area Network (SPAN) project in 2004. Instead of attempting to win political support for the parks with rhetoric about the aesthetics of wilderness or the global importance of biodiversity, the MET set out to establish what the national parks were worth to the nation.  In Namibian dollars and cents.

The results of research were sufficiently impressive to convince the most ecologically indifferent economist. Tourism is the third largest, and fastest growing, industry in Namibia, and the parks, particularly Etosha and the magnificent Namib Naukluft Park are the principle draw.  The economic analysis showed that parks contribute up to 6% to the GDP and the economic return on increased investment in parks would be as much as 23%.  This is like receiving 23% interest on your savings! Hard to argue against that!

During the last eight years of the SPAN Project, with its initial number crunching and a subsequent series of initiatives including awareness raising about park’s values, park related policy development, park management and business planning, incentive schemes for parks staff, including awards for hard work, and the publication of the Sandpaper park’s magazine, the government has increased park funding three fold and created three new parks.

Namibia will connect its national park network, communities and private conservation areas with those of neighbouring countries to create the eighth largest contiguous network of protected areas in the world. 

The charismatic megafauna are thriving here – the black rhino population is the biggest in Africa – and so, too, are the little guys. The ones who are there when there’s nothing at the waterhole.    

But who, in their small way, make up the glorious mosaic that is wild Namibian biodiversity and who help spur economic prosperity and future hope for Namibia and her people.    

Even if nobody notices them doing it!

By  Midori Paxton,  Regional Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP

More Funny Loo Paper

August 30, 2010

A More Useful Roll

August 30, 2010

You may prefer this version!


Brigitte’s Pick: Toilet Rolls – For Those Who Take Long In The Loo !!

August 30, 2010

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Thai Days: There IS a Ghost in Thai Village!

August 29, 2010

I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t asleep, no recreational or medicinal drugs were involved and I was watching “Smiley’s People”, one of the bleakest but most compulsive BBC adaptations of a John Le  Carre Cold War spy novel ever made.

BLOG ADVISORY: It lasts almost as long as the Cold War.

At about three in the morning, I heard a door open and heavy footseps approaching the stairs and then descending.  

My initial response was panic.

I thought, “Gawd! My wife! She’s going to tell me the volume’s too loud. Ask me why I’m still watching Smileys People six hours after I started! Then ask why I’m still on Episode Five! Or remind me that I have to be up sharp and early to take Annabel to yet another bloody children’s birthday party!”

Fearfully, I turned off the TV and rushed up the stairs to reassure her that I was about to go to sleep and – well – buy a bit of time to watch the end of Smiley’s People.

She wasn’t there.

Well, she was there, actually. As I soon discovered after barging into the bedroom and annoying her by asking if anything was wrong.

She informed me that she was thinking about measures to optimise the co-existence of ecosystems, nomadic pastoralists and endangered species in the Mongolian Altai mountain district.

That’s my wife! Always on the job!

She asked me if I was still watching my spies and reminded me about the birthday party. I asked her if she had gone stomping around upstairs and then come downstairs.

She said, “No.”

“Why don’t you sleep early?” she added. “And stop stomping around!”

That’s it. That’s my ghost story. 

I didn’t see a ghost. But something WAS stomping around and it wasn’t a burglar, it wasn’t us. It definitely came down stairs.   


Thai Days: Tiger Smuggler Nabbed at Airport

August 29, 2010

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is pleased to report that a Thai woman bound for Iran with a suitcase stuffed with soft tiger toys was arrested after an airport x-ray check revealed that one of them was moving.

The two-month-old cub had been drugged. The woman claimed that someone had given her the suitcase to carry. About as convincing as a thirteen Baht note.She has yet to explain why she was taking it to Tehran or where she got it from.

The cub has been handed over to conservation officials at Khao Prathap Chand Wildlife Sanctuary.

Today’s Bangkok Post editorial used the incident to raise the issue of poaching in general and focused on the illegal trade and smuggling of thousands of protected (and endangered) pangolins north to China where they are considered, you’re probably ahead of me on this one, yes, medicinal.  Pangolin sniffer dogs are being deployed to check trucks but more are needed.  

When I was six-years-old and living in Singapore, there were still pangolins on the island. I know. I saw them being boiled alive in the Chinese Kampong next to our house. Now there are no pangolins in Singapore. The country is poorer for their disappearance.

I hope that Thailand doesn’t follow this dismal example.

Sandra’s Pick: New Words for 2010

August 28, 2010

Sandra’s Pick!  New Words for 2010

 Waving your arms around and talking bollocks.
Sitting round in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed and who was responsible.
 A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything and then leaves.
 The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die.
  An office filled with cubicles.
*PRAIRIE DOGGING. When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on.  (This also applies to applause for a promotion because there may be cake.)
 An excellent phrase for an overweight person.
*SWAMP DONKEY. A deeply unattractive person.
 One who has bleached/dyed her hair but still has a ‘black box’.
 The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
 That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a BIG mistake. (e.g. You’ve hit ‘reply all’).
A very short skirt, only an inch from the hare.
The contents of a Wonderbra, i.e. Extremely impressive when viewed from the outside  but there’s actually naught in there worth seeing.
 A bath so hot, that when lowering yourself in, you go: ‘Oo! Oo! Oo! Aa! Aa! Aa!’
 The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you’re in the toilet after your 10th pint  and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.
 Bottled premixed spirits, regularly consumed by young women.
 Tattoo on a female.
 A woman whose knickers are too small for her, so she looks like she’s got 4 buttocks.

Urgent Thai Travel Advisory

August 28, 2010

Local Bangkok elections are underway and unrest is brewing in fancy restaurants throughout the city.

Violent demonstrations have not yet been reported but tensions and arguments are running high and getting louder.

The serving of alcoholic drinks is illegal during local elections.

Something that has caused increased disillusionment with Thai politics. And an increasing sense of the futility of life in fancy restaurants.

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has just returned from a family jolly at a Tapas bar. No Sangria! That’s like serving English Fish and Chips without the grease and oil, inedible mushy peas and a lukewarm can of Vimto!

Enough to spark popular revolution!

My wife, who is by no means a raving ethanol dependent, spent most of our jolly evening out talking about the lack of Sangria. She spent some time as student volunteer in Spain digging up the remains of Romans and Sangria was a staple.

I spent most of this evening agreeing that tapas need Sangria. And that if there wasn’t any to deaden the taste buds you couldn’t help avoiding the fact that all the tapas despite arriving with different names tasted identical.

Annabel chucked her ginger ale over the tapas. 

It’s always nice to see a bit of family solidarity!

So chaps, if you are planning to wine and dine your gals tonight Hugh Paxton’s Blog has two pieces of advice

1. Go to a sleazy noodle shop in the Red light district where law is thin on the ground. Don’t drink Thai brandy. Top brands say they have won awards. They don’t admit that these were issued by the Hemlock Society.  


2. Stay at home, rattle the pans and pop your own corks.

Cheers! (Or not, if you are in a Bangkok Tapas bar)


PS Some mean-spirited idiot detonated a bomb at – would you believe it? the principle Duty Free Bangkok, King Power complex. More Sangria unavailable!  That bang was Thursday. State of Emergency extended as a consequence. But overall, no need to worry.

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