A Rip in Time

On September 2nd, 1989, I remember putting my hand against a series of indented holes in a stone wall. Many decades prior, those marks I touched had been carved out by bullets. I was 18 years old and on a 1st time visit to Warsaw during the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by German and Soviet troops. Though my knowledge of this period came solely from the pages of textbooks, for a brief moment I felt a very real rending of the cloth of time. It was the impression of a shifted instant; of someone dying in the same space I held while I, lived in mine.

Next to them a plaque poignantly marked the names of the men who had been executed there by German troops in 1940. That memory welled forth the other day when I saw the photographs below. If anything could describe the parallel sensation I had back in '89, then they are about the closest visual expression of what it is I felt on that day.

You are looking at images of old and modern St. Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad) which have been fused into a hybrid time of co-existance by the Photoshop art of Sergei Larenkov.

"This was undoubtedly the most tragic period in the history of the city, a period full of suffering and heroism. For everyone who lives in St. Petersburg the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad is an important part of the city's heritage and a painful memory for the population's older generations."

"Less than two and a half months after the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, German troops were already approaching Leningrad. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8, 1941 the Germans had fully encircled Leningrad and the siege began. The siege lasted for a total of 872 days, from September 8, 1941 until January 27, 1944. The city's almost 3 million civilians (including about 400,000 children) refused to surrender and endured rapidly increasing hardships in the encircled city."

Food and fuel stocks were limited to a mere 1-2 month supply, public transport was not operational and by the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food."

"In January 1942, in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the city's food rations reached an all time low of only 125 grams (
about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per person per day. In just two months, January and February of 1942, 200,000 people died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. Despite these tragic losses and the inhuman conditions, the city's war industries still continued to work and the city did not surrender."

"In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27, 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641,000 people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure closer to 800,000). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries, with the majority in the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, resting place to over 500,000 people and a timeless reminder of the heroic deeds of the city."

Text via St. Petersburg.com and Sergei Larenkov's images via Environmental graffiti

Have You Ever Seen This Book Cover?

If you have a small child, then chances are that the answer is yes. The title of the book is only part of a very long name given to a little boy in ancient China. You want the whole of it? Prepare yourself. It's Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo. You should know that I just wrote that from memory. And how in heaven's name did I remember all that? Well, read it out loud say... a trijillion times and you may yet achieve my in-a-single-breath level of proficiency. What can I say? My kid loves the book and he loves the illustrations. Which is why it is so sad that Blair Lent, whose beautiful visual rendering of Tikki's story gave the story such charm, died in Massachusetts on January 29th. He was 80 years old. Tikki hopefully, will never outlive the glory of his name.

"Although Mr. Lent occasionally wrote and illustrated his own books, like “Pistachio,” about a green cow and a circus, he specialized in illustrating international folk tales retold by other writers. Using a broad variety of techniques, including cardboard cutouts, colored pencil, acrylic painting, and ink and wash, he provided the images for tales from Japan, Russia, India and Africa. His illustrations for “The Funny Little Woman,” a Japanese folk tale retold by Arlene Mosel, won the Caldecott Medal in 1973." Excerpted from the New York Times.

You may read more about Blair Lent and his work at the New York Times.

Abstruse Goose

I can't tell you who creates them or the why of the unusual title for the site. All I know is that the place is as puzzling as can be. Check out the About or the Angry Monkey link (and it will take you to an angry monkey) at the bottom of the Abstruse Goose page to see what I mean. The comics however are self explanatory and often very funny. I thought I'd share this one with you. For reasons I won't elaborate upon, it reminded me of me and something that has happened with my husband at one time or another. Ladies, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Instant Library

"To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul." - Cicero

Considering how much I love books, this wallpaper by Deborah Bowness is quite the bibliophilist pick-me-up. I know I feel cheered just looking at it. I wish the books were more neatly lined however don't you? They're messy. I also wonder what kind of soul they'd give a home. Certainly not the one Cicero envisioned...

From Deborah Bowness' Wallpaper Collection. A different Style of Decorating.

"Since 1999, Deborah has been designing a collection of ready-made digitally and hand printed wallpapers. Private homes and businesses can be reinvented by installing these trompe l'oeil pieces. Each drop is hand finished so these ready-made ranges can be tailored to meet the need of your colour scheme."

The Meaning of Life

As ever, it remains unclear. Take a look.

You may get yours at Threadless

Chocolate Sharpener

Tell me, would this post in any way be complete without my featuring something sinfully chocolatey in it? Absolutely not. Which is why I'm showing you these chocolate pencils. I think they're divine. And if I had a restaurant, I would procure the pencils, the plates and the sharperners in a lickety split. What a fabulous idea, what ingenious presentation. I know I'd order a dessert like this e.v.e.r.y. day if it were available. Super sharp!

Via Nendo which states in its concept page that their aim is to give people "a small (!) moment" because,"there are so many small (!) moments hidden in our everyday." To see more exclamation point products from Nendo, visit their fantastic website and peruse to your heart's content. There's lots more where the pencils came from.


  1. ...somehow I don't think Cicero ever envisioned my home, either...gotta love the chocolate pencils, though...looking so good I'm tempted to try the wood and graphite one I've got here...but not too tempted...and there's a part of me that'd love to see Petersburg after reading all those Dostoyevsky and other Russian novels, along with Moscow and other Russian points...what keeps me from taking solid steps toward realizing that desire, however, might be the fact that people tended to be pretty damn miserable in those novels...and what can ya say about winters so bad they turned around both Napoleon and Hitler?

  2. I have a very small bookshelf but a very large number of books. A do have neatly aligned array on the shelves- surrounded by heaps and piles and stacks. :D

  3. Milena,
    I love the Cicero quote. And the goose cartoon.
    You know, I think that you ought to rename your blog to web portal. You distill out such choice things from all of the web. Websites ought to be bribing you to highlight their product and everyone ought to show up here at least once a week to see what ought not to be missed.

  4. Jay, you're funny. I know, the chocolate pencils are mighty tempting. I've been searching the web trying to find a pencil mold (that looks like a real pencil) thinking that if I find it, I'll make my own chocolate ones. But I've had no luck. Never been to St. Petersburg but ever since I read a biography on Peter the Great (after whom it is named) I've wanted to go there. In Russia I have only been to Moscow and when I went there I took a copy of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin to read because I have always thought that one must at least read one author in the place which saw them born (Pushkin was a Muscovite). I can tell you that it made a difference reading his words there vs. reading them in Panama. ;-)

    Yes, they were miserable alright. But also happy in that expansive Russian way. And you know I hate the cold don't you?

    Thomas! Do you really? You shall have to take a picture and show me. I like seeing piles of books too. Very bohemian that. Just not in my home. We keep buying bookshelves and bookshelves to fit in all my books in. There is no more space. I need another house.

    Ron: You've resurfaced! That's a great quote I know. I'm 200% in agreement with it. And thank you for the nice comment. I might consider changing the name if and when I can call it Mworld. ;-) And I wish I had the clout to give them proper visibility. Someday, if my rank keeps rising maybe that shall be the case.

  5. The photos are stunning, in so many ways. You introduced me to some history with which I wasn't familiar, too.

    My bookshelves, if I had any right now, might not look so different from those, I'm afraid. (The shelves of a cluttered, distracted soul who's too busy reading or writing to organize the shelves, perhaps?) ;-)

    I love the Cicero quote, too. My next house better have a library. (And I'm thinking of a few people who need those chocolate pencils!)

  6. What a sad time it was in our world's history. Of course, there are atrocities happening on the planet even today, so it's important that we never forget the horror of WWII.

    Tikki Tikki Tembo - I remember the teachers reading that one aloud in school - a lot. I can recite his name from memory too ;) it really sticks, doesn't it?

  7. I wonder if I had chocolate pencils, would my students remember to bring a pencil to class? probably not; they'd eat them on the way.


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