Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Cross Foxes

Cross foxes are a color variation of the red fox (like the silver fox, which I have heard of before). They seem to inhabit the more nothern reaches of the Northern hemisphere.

Flickr Humane Society US Cross Fox Father Child

Looks like they can have a variety of fur coloring, from mostly black and grey with only a little red, to almost half and half.

Flickr Robert Kowaluk Cross Fox

What I can’t tell from the photos and texts is how bright the red coat might naturally be—I’ve seen some striking photos with really bright red and deep black. I suspect those may be photoshopped, but of course individual variation is always possible. And, naturally, if you wanted to use cross foxes with saturated red-black coats as inspiration for a fantasy story, no-one’s stopping you! 🙂

Flickr Stephen Brown Cross Fox Closeup

Aren’t they handsome?

Found via Jonathan Webers on Twitter.

Images via Flickr: Father and child by The Humane Society of the United States (CC BY-ND 2.0). Side profile by Robert Kowaluk. Closeup by Stephen Brown.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Folk Art Blooms in Zalipie in Southern Poland

In the village of Zalipie in southern Poland, some blossoms never stop blooming: they’re painted. Not just on the walls inside or outside, but on ceilings, beams, stoves, sheds, dog houses, wells, buckets, paved ground, and bridges.

Flickr magro_kr Zalipie Cabin

Flickr mksfca Zalipie Museum Interior

No one apparently knows exactly how the flower-painting tradition came to be. Common features of the origin stories involve covering up stains, or simply perking up the homes, or uplifting people’s mood following World War II.

Flickr magro_kr Zalipie Sweep Well

Flickr Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shed

Flickr magro_kr Zalipie End of House

Regardless of the custom’s origins, it’s a fascinating feature of village life. These kinds of details would make spec fic stories even more alive, wouldn’t you say?

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr. More photos e.g. via My Modern Met or your favorite search engine.

Images via Flickr: Cabin by magro_kr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Museum interior by mksfca (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Sweep well by magro_kr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Shed by Mariusz Cieszewski via Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (CC BY-ND 2.0). End of house by magro_kr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Pimp Your Living Room with an Enormous Battle of Hoth Wallpaper

Aaaaa! It’s a battle of Hoth wallpaper!

Bauhaus Finland Star Wars Battle of Hoth

Handsome, isn’t it?

One of my pet peeves is when people—mostly merchants and, I assume following their lead, parents—assume only kids could be into superheroes or heroic scifi stories or what have you. I have exceedingly firm plans of becoming a geeky granny! This would fit right in. 🙂

Found / image via Bauhaus Finland

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Exact Opposites Cats

Seriously, this is amazing: a pair of cats. One black, the other white. One has a blue left eye and a green right eye, the other a green left eye and a blue right eye.

Twitter Land of Cuteness Exact Opposites Cats

Granted, this is the Internet, and Photoshop is a thing. (And please note I didn’t intend to post this as an April Fool’s joke. As far as I know it isn’t, but as I said, this is from the Internet and who really knows.)

However, even if it were edited, it’s still a damn awesome photo. I immediately thought of a magic-user’s familiar or some such special pet. Wouldn’t cats like these be just astounding?

Found via Land of Cuteness on Twitter.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Rich Anglo-Saxon Burial Chamber Found in Essex

A new-ish Anglo-Saxon burial chamber found at Prittlewell in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, in southern England has all of the markings of a valuable find, both in terms of quality and quantity of the grave goods and of historical significance.

The male body was placed within a wooden coffin in a timber room. The burial most likely dates to the late 6th century (575-605 CE). It was first discovered in 2003 in remarkably good condition.

MOLA Prittlewell Burial Chamber Drawing

Artefacts from the burial were studied at Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), and the most impressive items are now on permanent display at Southend Central Museum in Southend-on-Sea. MOLA has also created an interactive website for the find.

Just some of the items discovered include a gold belt buckle, two Frankish gold coins, a beautiful sword, iron-bound buckets, a huge metal cauldron, latticed glass beakers, a tall iron candelabrum, a folding iron stool, a basin and a flagon made from copper alloy, a silver spoon, a painted wooden box, and an Anglo-Saxon lyre.

MOLA Prittlewell Blue Glass Decorated Beaker

Incidentally, the wooden box is so far the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork!

MOLA Prittlewell Painted Wooden Box

MOLA The Guardian Prittlewell Gold Copper Item Collage

There are two interesting implications for the burial. Firstly, two gold foil crosses were likely placed on the body’s eyes. If the burial can indeed be placed at its earliest possible date, it makes the connection to Christianity remarkable because it would predate Augustine’s mission to convert the British in 597. A royal connection has been surmised (Seaxa, a younger brother of king Sæbert of Essex, whose mother Ricula was Æthelbert of Kent’s sister) but not confirmed.

(King Æthelbert of Kent married a Merovingian Christian princess called Bertha in 580, so Roman Christianity was known to Anglo-Saxons to some degree by the end of the 6th century, but to my knowledge we had previously not known of other converts outside their court prior to 600.)

Secondly, although Essex has earlier been seen as an Anglo-Saxon backwater of sorts, this rich burial chamber suggests otherwise. Indeed, some of the luxury items come from the near-by continental Europe (the Frankish gold coins), but others have much more far-reaching origins (the Byzantine or Syrian copper alloy flagon, for example).

Having studied Anglo-Saxons myself and witnessed Erik’s research on the side, I keep being amazed at how much paraphernalia is extant from the Roman period and early middle ages onwards. Not only that, but how much of it is still being discovered! If you tour any of the major museums of Roman history in Germany, for example, you will see massive (massive!) amounts of metalwork, gold, silver, glass, and pottery. And what’s on display doesn’t even account for the remnants in storage.

People from old cultures had as large incentives as we do today to dress up and surround themselves with ornate household goods—after all, we are humans who like their stuff, right? Their ability to do so naturally depended on the resources available in the area and era, and—despite what most of us seem to have been taught—early history is full of times when our predecessors were able to produce items on a massive scale and the richest in those societies did have the wherewithal to go all out.

Like the Staffordshire helmet, the Prittlewell burial will be of immense importance to our understanding of Anglo-Saxon history and culture. I’m so delighted it was found!

Images by MOLA; collage of the gold and copper alloy items by MOLA via The Guardian.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

LightSail 2 Spacecraft Is Successfully Driven by Solar Sails

Have you guys heard of the LightSail project?

The Planetary Society LightSail 2 Australia New Guinea

Run by The Planetary Society (the world’s largest private non-profit space organization), LightSail is a crowdfunded project that successfully launched a solar sail driven spacecraft into Earth orbit in June 2019 in an effort to lower the cost of space exploration.

While not the first spacecraft to successfully use solar sails, LightSail 2 has managed to slow down the deterioration of its orbit and on occasion to reverse drag created by the atmosphere and correct course. Indeed: one of the mission’s functions is doubling as a probe of far-atmospheric thickness.

LightSail 2 deployed its solar sail in July 2019, and has been sending data down to Earth since then. Access the LightSail project page or LightSail 2 mission control for some interesting browsing.

Really cool, isn’t it?

Image: Australia and New Guinea from LightSail 2 by The Planetary Society (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Firefall at Yosemite

Each February, if conditions allow the seasonal Horsetail waterfall in Yosemite National Park in California to flow, the waterfall appears to be set ablaze by the setting sun. This event is known as the firefall (apparently as homage to Yosemite Firefall).

Flickr Jay Huang Firefall Yosemite National Park

Just stunning! Why hasn’t anyone put this kind of an effect into a story yet—or have I just missed it? Anyone know???

Image by Jay Huang via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Sigiriya

In the hills of central northern Sri Lanka are the remains of a palace built over a thousand years ago on top of an extraordinary natural rock formation. The place is known as Sigiriya. At the base of the rock, intricately organized gardens incorporating sophisticated irrigation and water retention structures stretch out along the hillsides. On top of the rock was originally a fortress, later converted into a Buddhist monastery.


A view of Sigiriya from a nearby hilltop, photograph by Azharkhanam via Wikimedia

According to Sri Lankan literature, the site was built in the late 400s CE by the king Kashyapa. Sources describe colorful frescoes covering the sides of the rock and a great gate in the shape of a lion, both of which are now only to been seen in fragmentary form. After Kashyapa’s death, Sigiriya ceased to be a royal site and for the next thousand years was inhabited by monks and visited by pilgrims, many of whom left inscriptions on the frescoed faces of the rock. Today, it continues to attract many visitors, although writing on the walls is no longer allowed.

The remains of the lion gate at the base of the citadel, photograph by Cherubino via Wikimedia
Surviving fragments of fresco, photograph by Peter van der Sluijs via Wikimedia (Sigiriya; late 5th c. CE; fresco)

The next time you’re imagining where the royals of your world might live for a story, artwork, or game, think of Sigiriya and remember that a palace doesn’t have to look like Neuschwanstein or Versailles.

History for Writers looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write.

Slavic Pagan Fusion Photoshoot Is Out of This World

This photo project is an older one, but due to the buzz generated by The Witcher screen adaptation it might be of interest.

(FYI: I can’t find a webpage dedicated solely to the project, so what I know mainly comes from an article at Design You Trust.)

Polish photographer and graphic designer Marcin Nagraba collaborated with designer Agnieszka Osipa to create a photoshoot entitled Pagan Poetry. Stylistically it can be described as Slavic fusion meets myth, fantasy, or Baroque. Osipa’s outfits certainly are out of this world—just check out the three examples below!

FB Marcin Nagraba See No Evil

FB Marcin Nagraba White and Red

FB Marcin Nagraba Alberta Ushakova

Nagraba’s personal Facebook page states he’s a “Former Photographer at Marcin Nagraba – Photography & Art”, so it sounds like he will not be continuing this project. Osipa is active, however, and she’s posting new work on Instagram and Facebook.

Found via Design You Trust. Check out the article and Nagraba’s Facebook page for more photos!

Images by Marcin Nagraba via Facebook: See No Evil, red and white, Alberta Ushakova.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Six Kings

When Islam first stepped onto the world stage in the seventh century CE, it came as a surprise to the great powers of the day, the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire and the Sassanian Persian Empire. A powerful religious, political, and social movement sprang up from among the Arabs, the fragmented desert-dwelling peoples who had been pushed back and forth by the wars between Rome and Persia for centuries.

Muslims of the early Islamic period were aware that they were stepping into a world of powerful forces, and some examples of early Islamic art reflect the desire to stake a claim for Islam’s place in the world. For example, a wall painting from an early Islamic palace, in modern-day Jordan, shows how early caliphs positioned themselves in relation to the larger world.

This painting, known as the “Six Kings” painting, is in very poor condition today, partly because of some European travelers who saw it in the early twentieth century and tried to chisel it off the wall and take it with them. (This is why we can’t have nice things.) Working from the painting in its current damaged state and an impressionistic copy made by those travelers, though, we can get a sense of what the original looked like.

Six Kings painting, photopgraph by Ghazi Bisheh via Wikimedia (Qasr Amra, Jordan; 710-740 CE; wall painting)
Copy of Six Kings painting via Wikimedia (1907; by Alois Musil)

Six royal figures stand together, all gesturing toward the caliph’s throne. The six figures were originally labeled in both Arabic and Greek. While not all of them can be identified now, we can tell that they include the Byzantine emperor, the Sassanian Persian emperor, the Visigothic king of Spain, and the king of Axum, a nation in what is today Ethiopia that was a powerful political and commercial state at the time.

This painting comes from the early 700s, a time when Islam was barely a century old but the caliphate had already become a major world power. By placing these figures on the wall, the caliphs were placing themselves among the great powers of the day, even positioning themselves as leaders of a world whose boundaries stretched from Spain to Persia and Constantinople to the horn of Africa. That was no small claim for such a young polity to make. The message was clear: Islam had arrived and was ready to be taken seriously as a world power.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.