Tuesday, 4 December 2007

What Big Teeth You Have: Photos of Oxford

I've been accumulating various snapshots I've taken over the last few weeks and today seemed as good a time as any to share them. The one above is a dinosaur skeleton framed against the greenhouse-like ceiling of the Museum of Natural History. It's a wonderful Victorian building and quite a nice museum too: not too big, not too small, you can see it without exhausting yourself.

And right behind it is the Pitt Rivers Museum, which reminds me of the old Arts & Industries Building on the Mall in Washington. You'll recall that that museum was built just after the Centennial. Until it was cleared out a few years ago, it still had a wonderfully crowded collection: early light bulbs, tools, a locomotive. The Pitt Rivers Museum is a mad jumble of pottery, reed baskets, sinew snowshoes, metal talismans, old bagpipes, stone knives--anything that can be made by human hands. Or out of human heads. They have several shrunken heads on display. (Click here for a recipe on how to make your own, human head not included.)

Oh, I snapped this at the Natural History Museum:

It made me hungry just looking at it....

My older daughter has been singing with the Oxford Girls' Choir. We went to its performance of "Dido & Aeneas" last week. It was in the Holywell Music Room, one of many places in Oxford that have been the settings for performances over the centuries. The opera was great (spoiler alert: Dido dies; I wiped away a tear) and the orchestra played period-style instruments. This was the wildest one of all:

It's like a lute on steroids. I thought it had been made out of a harpoon.

These road signs are common around England:

It means "slow down." But there's something dramatic about "Kill Your Speed." And the checkerboard border reminds me of something a ska band would put on an album cover.

Teddy Bear's Jihad

The English teacher who offended some Muslims in Sudan is back on British soil. You'll recall that Gillian Gibbons allowed her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammed." Some Sudanese called for her death, marching in the streets of Khartoum with sticks and knifes. As one British columnist wrote, if Muslims want the West to stop thinking of them as homicidal maniacs, they should stop acting like homicidal maniacs.

Of course, that tars all Muslims with the same brush. British Muslims were quick to condemn Gibbons's arrest, conviction and sentence. (At least she got a speedy trial.) And it was two Muslim peers who secured her pardon. Besides, there are rabid Christians in the United States who chafe at our secular society. "Separation of church and state," they seethe. "Who needs it?"

Well, just look at Sudan.


mark from alexandria said...

Ah, but our "Evangelical Christians," are, as I write, demonstrating their political maturation by flirting with candidates who many of them do not consider "Christian"...Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Neither the nominally Catholic Giuliani nor the LDS Romney followed the Evangelical line on various hot botton issues when they were trying to get elected in liberal constituencies, but are now being "born again" as conservatives. It will be interesting to watch this play out, both within the Evangelical community and in the wider electorate.

suburbancorrespondent said...

As far as not tarring all Muslims with the same brush, I agree. But why don't all these moderate Muslims speak out (loudly) against these fanatics? I never hear any moral outrage on their part.

Richard said...

Hello Suburban Correspondent.

They do speak out. Regularly. As loudly as they can. For example:

And more generally on fundamentalism:


And a good survey of it all from an American Baptist:



Candadai Tirumalai said...

It is characteristic of Oxford that the place has both the Pitt Rivers Museum (the University has done pioneering work in anthropology and its graduates shaped the British Empire in many ways) and the Holywell Music Room. And the two are located within easy walking distance.

suburbancorrespondent said...

Richard -

The third link, I couldn't get to load - I got an error. The first link loaded, but I can't find the article you are referring to on that page. Could you check both addresses? If you click on my highlighted moniker, you'll end up at my profile page where you can e-mail me (so we don't keep bothering John).


Anonymous said...

A museum you can see without exhausting yourself? Don't want to spend too much time there? Hmmm, reminds me of this column of yours, Speed Demon.

John Kelly said...

Er. I don't speed through ALL museums. But are you ever able to perfectly calibrate your museum-going with another person's? And when you add children, it's even harder. People move at different paces. Some are annoyed that you're not moving fast enough, others that you're moving too fast. I harbor the desire to actually go to museums and galleries alone, but it seems kind of sad, like drinking alone. HAving said that, a radio feature I did for public radio in the States about whipping through the American History Museum before it closed for a three-year renovation was one of the funnest things I've done.