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- A week in Barcelona: The Arc De Triomf
- FutureLearn this week
- Happy Hanukkah
- Offline tomorrow
- Remembering Mizuki Shigeru
Japanese artist and folklorist Mizuki Shigeru has died. Nevin Thompson explains his role in Japanese culture:
Thanks to the inspiration of Non Non Ba and other sources, Mizuki Shigeru drew rich depictions of traditional Japanese yokai. However, Mizuki was careful to pay attention to and record the unique traditions of everyday Japanese people from typically obscure parts of Japan.
While Mizuki started out as an entertainer, his knowledge and deep appreciation for the lives of everyday Japanese “folk” have sometimes led him to be compared with the pioneering Japanese folklorist Yanagita Kunio.
Like Mizuki, Yanagita also avoided creating chauvinistic tropes that could stereotype Japan as a homogeneous culture and nation, and instead described practices and beliefs unique to each region of Japan.
Tomorrow we're having some new functionality added to the site, and we're overhauling the look of the certificates you get for participating in our free courses - unfortunately, this means we're going to have to take the site offline from about 9.30 in the morning until mid-afternoon. Keep an eye on our various Twitter feeds to know when we're back. Sorry.
It's not just Christmas at this time of year - yesterday saw the start of Hanukkah, a festival of light. Obviously depending on your faith, you might be more or less familiar with this festival - if you're not sure what it's all about, Graham Harvey has written a brief introduction:
The festival begins with the lighting of a candle around sunset on the first day, and each night one more candle is lit until nine are burning brightly on the menorah or hanukkiah candelabrum - one for each night of the festival, plus a 'helper' candle or shammash from which the others are lit. As with many Jewish and other religious festivals, there are associated foods. In the case of Hanukkah the emphasis is on fried foods, particularly potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts (sufganiyot).
FutureLearn is about to wind down for Christmas - it'll be back with a whole load of new courses once the Mince Pies have been consumed, the wrapping recycled and the last pine needle hoovered up. So there's just two new free courses this week, both from the University of Leeds: Learning Online and Starting A Business.
Here on OpenLearn, because you can study to your own schedule, the presence of a public holiday or two need not disrupt your studies - check our list of free courses and get started today (or even on Christmas Day).
This week, to mark our new BBC Four series Blood And Gold, we're using our start-up segment to explore Barcelona. And we're going to start with a gateway - the city's Arc De Triomf.
Built in 1888, the archway was originally constructed as the grand entrance to the Barcelona World Fair of that year. The fair itself was part of a remaking of Barcelona, clearing an area which had been an 18th Century Spanish citadel. The building had become a reminder of the wars which had seen Barcelona be absorbed into Spain and the citizenry were delighted to see it gone.
Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas' design is constructed in striking red brick, and each side carries a frieze. A View On Cities describes these:
The front frieze by Josep Reynés shows the city of Barcelona welcoming visitors. The other side, designed by Josep Llimona, shows a prize-giving ceremony. The frieze on the right, created by Antoni Vilanova, symbolizes industry, trade and agriculture while the frieze on the left, created by Torcuato Tasso, symbolizes trade and the arts.
The park built for the Fair still stands, and many of its buildings now form part of Barcelona Zoo. Passing through the arch, you come to the Passeig de Sant Joan, a fine avenue which is home to a number of the city's key cultural buildings.