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Saturday, 19 May 2007

Mestia, March 2007

Finally for today, a shot of the watchtower, left, which went into the "Spirit of the Watchtower" composition (right of this column), showing its local context. I was only in Mestia for a few hours, but I made them count.
In & nr Etseri, March 2007

And three more in colour from the same area, for you to compare.

In & nr Etseri, March 2007

A few more black & whites from the late winter trip.

the W()RD

The W()RD today is a W31RD one, the zone of online translation.

I went to and inserted the phrase to be translated:

I am going shopping now but I will be back in time for lunch.

Then I selected translations from:
English to Spanish to Swedish to Arabic to Japanese to Russian, and finally back to English.
Here's what I got, with the unrecognized word (from the Russian) in[square brackets]:

Perfection during the morning, it is which necessary to stock up, that, those me less as the of will of exception which your own of [zadiy] now goes because of the dinner of food.

Wot fun one can have with this!

Friday, 18 May 2007

Ushba from Etseri, March 2007

How many different views of Ushba can there be from the same place? As many as there are moments of different light and weather, different zooms - here are only seven more shots of the great mountain.

Mineral water spring, nr Etseri, March 2007

Such springs are almost sacred places in Georgia. There are close to 2000 of them, generally protected from the elements, many ancient like this one, used by locals, with various claimed curative powers depending on their mineral content. (There's a "weeping wall" right in Tbilisi the water of which is supposed to be very good for eyesight.)

the W()RD

A few more palindromes for today's W()RD, these being ones which I found recently:

Now I won.
Today a dot.
Roman amor
And I saw how: oh, was I DNA?
Maybe I tie by a.m.

As I said, certainly a strange way to play with language.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Getting closer to the end of my March 2007 trip to Svaneti.

First (bottom), a view near Etseri.
Next up, shoes drying in the sun, also near Etseri.
Then three more of the family sheep, Ladreri, the lowest of which also has Ushba in the background (bonus!).
Finally, left, the Moon setting over Ladreri.

the W()RD

There really are some weird ways of playing with a language.

A palindrome is a word or phrase which reads the same forwards or backwards - in other words, its collection of letters is reversed halfway through. There are many famous examples. Here are a few favourites of mine from the internet, their discoverers (or so they have been attributed) noted at the end of each set.

Doc note, I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
If I had a hi-fi

(Dan Hoey)

Rise to vote, sir.
Top step's pup's pet spot.
Cigar? Toss it in a can, it is so tragic.
Oh, no! Don Ho!
Lisa Bonet ate no basil.
Man, Oprah's sharp on A.M.!
Damn! I, Agassi, miss again! Mad!
Neil A. sees alien!
Sis, ask Costner to not rent socks "As Is"!
A dog! A panic in a pagoda!
Draw, o coward!
Kayak salad - Alaska yak.
Ma is a nun, as I am.
Must sell at tallest sum.
Never odd or even.
No lemons, no melon.
Party boobytrap.
"Reviled did I live," said I, "as evil I did deliver."
Senile Felines
So, Ida, adios!
Star comedy by Democrats.
Strategem: megatarts.
Yawn a more Roman way.

(John Jensen)

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

"New" church and Ushba, Etseri, March 2007

(Well, I shot 12 rolls of film on that trip. So I have a lot of images to choose from.)

A favourite view of mighty Ushba; the mountain looks so different from 90 degrees away, near Mestia, that I wouldn't have thought it was the same mountain at all.

The church is called "new" because it's "only" eight centuries or so old, apparently built in Queen Tamar's time. It was recently restored. Its carved wooden doors are said to have come from the "old" church (c. 6th century, ruined).
nr Etseri, March 2007

Some more moody black and white images from the mountains near Etseri, the feeling aided by clouds.

the W()RD: C@ption C<>ntest

Found this Georgian Army recruiting ad near my home.  Look closely - there's space between the tank and its shadow; in other words, it's flying...
Cries out for a caption.  Now it's your turn - post your choice of caption in the comments to this photo.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A Modern Svan Icon

Only one picture today. This is because it's such an important one that it deserves its own space. It will also be duplicated in the column to the right of my regular posts, thus remaining always in view regardless of which page you are on.

On a recent visit to Etseri, Svaneti, in the late winter of March 2007, I noticed a new thing about the watchtowers. There was a short local television feature about Svaneti, and one of its shots was of a tower with two windows on the top of each side instead of the usual three or four. Immediately this picture impressed itself upon me as a helmeted face, with the windows only needing eyes in them to complete it.

A few days later, on a day trip to Mestia, Svaneti's capital town, I was able to find and photograph one of the watchtowers which has these two windows on each side, among the nearly 70 towers in the town. Adding a faint face (that of Nodar, my closest Svan friend), gradually I built up the image my imagination held already, using photo editing software on my computer. A new friend, visiting from the UK and much more knowledgeable in layering photographs by computer, gave me much invaluable help, without which I might not have succeeded.

Svaneti was the repository of Georgia's royal treasure in the centuries of warfare and invasion the country experienced, this remote, inacessible corner being an ideal location to send such wealth to for protection. Many of its villages still each have their fabulous chased gold or silver or painted icon tucked away in the local church, under lock and key. Some of these items are among the most important in the entire Orthodox world. The Svan and Georgian languages diverged a number of millennia ago, and Svan may also be considered the "treasure house" of the Old Georgian language. All of this is somehow important to the image.

The photographic composition born out of the vision I received is something I call a modern "Svan icon". Nodar's reaction? He laughed hard for five minutes or so upon first seeing it on the screen, and then he sobered up and said to me, "Tony, you've got something here. Part of the spirit of the watchtowers."

This will be the cover of a book on Svaneti someday.

the W()RD

A short piece of mine from Russia in the early 1990s.

Fallen star
Now I wonder

Monday, 14 May 2007

Views from a walk from Etseri towards Becho (in the direction of Mestia, Svaneti's capital). Above, a beautiful and touching slate memorial to a man who seems to have died right there - more than likely DUI-involved, as is all too common here, but there's no telling.

My current apartment, Tbilisi, February 2007

Nerve centre of all this blogging activity thanks to reasonably high-speed internet. The whole building reflected in a nice clean car parked below. I'm in the lowest central apartment, right in the middle of the windshield at bottom, house-sitting for a few months before I move to Ushguli.
Wedding, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta, Georgia, February 2007

Now there's a mouthful of a name!

Svetitskhoveli is one of the oldest churches in Georgia, at least foundation-wise. It's magnificently set in Mtskheta, which was the old capital, functioning as such from c. 500 BC to 500 AD, the date of Tbilisi's accession to capital city status. So St. Nino brought Christianity here in c. 337. Here, also, legend has it that a Georgian Jew visiting Jerusalem for the Passover acquired the robe of Christ at His crucifixion. Returning to Mtskheta, he was greeted by his sister who, clutching the robe, died instantly, it then being irremoveable from her hands. She and it were buried together in what became the foundation of the cathedral. "Svetitskhoveli" translates as "Life-giving pillar": during construction, one of the church's pillars hung obstinately in the air, refusing all attempts to settle it, until Nino's prayers prevailed.

The cathedral has also long been a favourite wedding venue for Georgian couples. Thus the photograph. Until a few years ago it was Georgia's largest church; but that position has, as with Tbilisi, been taken by a young upstart, Tsminda Sameba (Holy Trinity). However, this church will always have the weight of a venerable history for its glory.

the W()RD

The W()RD now is Shota Rustaveli (c.1172 - c.1216), who appeared recently here in an anagram. His poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin can be found online in English at
in French at
and in Russian (halfway down or so) at
Yes, it's long, but it's Georgia's national epic. Read it (online or buy it if you'd rather) to learn a huge amount about the country then and now.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Fractal Day 2 - but only a couple; other work below them.

Miscellaneous fractals of mine which didn't fit into any other categories - the first an IFS variation, the second a space-operatic Lyapunov type.
Made in Fractint.

the W()RD

Georgian has the world record for a consonant cluster, a group of consonants in a word with no vowel among them. This word comes close but isn't it:
mts'vrtneli, "trainer"
THIS is the record breaker:
gvprtskvni, "you are peeling us"
NOT for the faint of heart!
Stream, Victoria, BC, Canada, September 2006

A diversion from Georgia for a bit.

Details of a small stream in a park, near where I was staying with an old friend for a few days, en route to Zimbabwe. The colours reflected in the water were what interested me the most, as well as playing with slower shutter speeds to attempt to blur the water as it flowed.