Thursday, October 30, 2008

Le Citroen aux feuilles mortes

Continuing this particular theme... I missed the best of the Dutch autumn this year as we spent those days in Shanghai. So I dived into last year's shots and selected this one. A simple study of a classical French Citroen car covered in autumn leaves, and one of my more popular shots on Flickr (39 times faved so far).

Camera: Konica Minolta Digital Revio KD-400Z 4 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.009 sec (91/10000)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0


Les feuilles mortes

As much as I love Autumn leaves (one of the true smooth jazz classics), I still prefer the original French version. It is not a straightforward translated version either - the English version is more simple musically whilst the original chanson has more depth. There are plenty of great versions of Les feuilles mortes, I opted for a live version by the charming Juliettte Greco, recorded in Berlin in 1967.


Autumn leaves

There are few - if any - songs that capture the mood of atumn as well as Autumn leaves. And no-one captured the mood of this song as well as the grandmaster, Nat King Cole. The accompanying video seems rather dumb at first sight, but in the end there is something endearing in looking at the old fashioned grammophone playing this classical song.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beijing Belle

We spent a few days in Beijing in October, and one day we came across a fellow photographer who was working with an attractive model. Since they were shooting in outside locations, I decided I might as well get in a few shots of my own.....

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.02 sec (1/50)
Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 36 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Tin drum

One of the most intriguing album covers - and one of my all-time favourite albums. Japan's final album Tin drum is one of the few records where I actually kept the album after buying the CD - for decoration purpose only... I am displaying the original album on top of my CD cases. The record itself is very much inspired by Asia in general and China in particular, with a style that is a little less flamboyant than their previous works. This is reflected in the cover art by Fin Costello, which is stunningly simple yet effective.

All Music


Another creation by my wife. Of all her paintings inspired by Shanghai ladies, this one stands out as perhaps the most accessible. I could see this one become a popular poster, or book cover (actually, she already had several bestsellers published in Shanghai with her works on the cover and inside, and she is now working on her first own book).

The Art of Lu Schaper

Zhi shao hai you ni

Well, since we find ourselves back in China with the previous post, a few more posts on that theme. This is one of those unknown gems that I have my wife to thank for. Together with Faye Wong, Sandy Lam is one of the best-loved mandarin pop singers. Overall, Faye Wong is more adventurous in her choice of repertoire, but this beautiful love song (the tile's translation is At least I still have you) from her 2000 album Sandy's is better than anything Faye produced. The almost too sweet lyrics (sample in translation: I'm afraid that there's not enough time, I wanna hold you until I feel that your wrinkles show signs of aging , until I'm sure that you're real, until I've lost all my energy - I'm willing to, because of you) are encompassed in a beautiful melody with great piano playing and a well-judged guitar solo gives some beef to the song as well.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)


Monday, October 27, 2008


During our recent visit to Shanghai, we had the good fortune to meet one of my wife's former class mates. Maleonn has become a well-known name in contemporary art photography and deservedly so. His style, although with hints of Jan Saudek at times, is still distinctly his own and has that unique blend of Chinese themes and western approaches that I also see in my wife's oil paintings. A fascinating artist, and in spite of his busy schedule, also a great host. You can see more of his art on his website linked to below.

Maleonn web site

Texas Tuba

One of the most intriguing web sites I recently stumbled upon is Oddmusic, where dozens of unusual musical instruments are listed, together with pictures, information and even the occasional soundbyte. Some of the instruments may be reasonably familiar (didgeridoo, shakuhachi flute, theremin), some are strange variations on the usual ones (like the giant tuba depicted above), some are really out of this world (like the uberorgan). Highly informative and highly entertaining.

Odd musical instruments

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stand like a rock

Reviving a creative game I played a few times before. The idea is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Integrated Product Team.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Thomas Jefferson: In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, The hero, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Lucinda Bright Demibold Italics 40 Black/Antiquewhite.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Turn back the clock

A reminder to my fellow Europeans.... if you have not done so yet, the clocks should be turned one hour back today. It is hard to imagine by the way that 21 years have past since Johnny Hates Jazz had a hit throughout Europe with this melodic song. Although the eighties (which for reasons that escape me often get a hard beating from pop and rock music lovers) has turned out many mnay songs that I like much better than this one, it is still good to give it the occasional spin. And the video is OK too.
Art Rock score: 7/10 (fun to hear it on the radio)



Continuing the theme of autumnal feelings, here is a painting by my favourite painter, German expressionist Franz Marc (1880-1916), whose life was cut short tragically in the misnamed Great War. His work is characterized by bright primary colours, an almost cubist portrayal of animals, stark simplicity and a profound sense of emotion. I will be posting more of this fascinating artist, now that I have switched from painters to paintings as a subject for my blog. More on Marc in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Recollection Harvest

A re-post from my original blog. An exquisite album cover for the CD Recollection Harvest by the American Art Rock band Djam Karet. Red and gold are of course a classic colour combination, whilst the total absence of any text (although not unique) adds to the quality of the cover. As usual, the computer-produced fractal images trigger associations with nature in your mind, in this case flowers or leaves. In combination with the colours, there is a distinct autumnal feeling about this one.

All Music

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Women in art

This amazing video is a re-post in my blog, originally dating back to June 2007. My appreciation for its mastery has only increased. The creator Philip Scott Johnson managed to take 90 women depcited by famous painters and let them morph slowly but irresistably from one to the other. The background music is Bach's Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 performed by Yo-Yo Ma - an exquisite choice. No wonder that this masterpiece was nominated as Most Creative Video for the 2007 YouTube Awards. When this was brought into circulation, a lot of questions were asked about isolated paintings in this video. All 90 have been identified meanwhile, and this website gives a very informative overview. You do need to see this. Trust me.


In the mood for love

Clearly, my mind is still very much focused on China. One more post on that theme then. This is a shot I took in Beijing, taking advantage of the fact that a professional photographer was shooting a series of wedding photographs of this lovely couple. I got this one out of that session as bystander, and I am very pleased with the way it turned out. I love the expression in her eyes, and the whole composition looks good to me - mind you, I shot this one from a totally different angle than the professional. As one commenter said: "could be from a movie". And indeed, it has that movie still feel about it. One of my better photographs to my taste.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 38 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ai de dai jia

To round off the Chinese theme that dominated the re-start of this blog, one of my favourite Chinese songs by the gorgeous Gigi Leung. This Hong Kong actress/singer will not be widely known outside the Far East, and that is a pity. Best known for her movies, her music is well worth exploring as well, especially the track Ai de dai jia (Price of love). It is a cover of a well-known Chinese standard, perhaps best known in the original version of Zhang Ai Jia. The song deals with women growing up, written from a man's perspective.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)


Dance away the heartache

Another shot I took during our recent visit to Shanghai. Both in Holland and in Shanghai, we have a large park in walking distance of our home. But there the similarity stops. In Holland, it is just a place to walk the dogs; the French Park in Shanghai, although not large, is free entertainment. Without ever getting overcrowded, there are always hundreds of locals about, involved in all kinds of activities. Chatting, playing cards or chess or go, flying kites, exercising, whirling coloured bands, getting free medical consults, singing, you name it, they do it. The highlight though is an elegant and touching custom that can be observed in the morning and late afternoon. Dozens of Shanghainese couples, typically in the 40-60 years range, dance on the streets of the park to the sound of romantic music coming from a portable CD player. As so often in China there is a grim reality behind this. Many of them have been fired from their jobs, being uneducated thanks to the disastrous Cultural Revolution policy, and now being replaced by young bright university graduates. Still, they try to enjoy life the best way they can, getting a bit of exercise at the same time. It is a dramatic sight, and many times we felt like we had been dropped into a movie when we watched or took part.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.025 sec (1/40)
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chinese propaganda posters

Maybe it is because my wife is Shanghainese, but I find many of these Chinese propaganda posters fascinating. When some time ago I stumbled upon the website of Stefan Landsberger dedicated to this communist art form, I wanted to share this with anyone interested. The message of the poster displayed in this post is simple: "Have culture". Rather fitting given the the theme of my blog.

Chinese Propaganda Posters

Oriental Elegance

One of the more recent paintings by my wife, Lu Schaper, a professional artist born in Shanghai. Her style, which we have christened Shanghai Expressionism, combines Asian themes with Western expressionist art styles. This particular painting relies less than usual on strong colours, opting for an elegant approach that is in the end just as convincing.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Visions of China

Keeping in line with the Chinese theme for today, here is a video of one of my all-time favourite songs: Visions of China by Japan. Without any doubt, Tin drum, the last Japan album is also their best. Many tracks on this fantastic album have a strong Asian influence, and none clearer than Visions of China with its evocative lyrics: "We walk backwards, say nothing, building our visions of China". As usual, Sylvian's deliverance is stunning and incomparable with anyone else, but the song also shows off the drumming talent of co-writer Steve Jansen - his drum break is really jaw-dropping!
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)


Minimalism in bamboo

One of my favourite photographs from our China trip. I spotted this opportunity with two bamboo-based brooms leaning against the wall, making for a nice minimalistic study.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Shanghai World Financial Centre

One of the fascinating sights during our recent trip to Shanghai was the new World Financial Center, currently the tallest building in the world by roof at 492 m. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, its construction was finished in 2007. It includes offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and shopping malls as well as what is going to be the highest hotel in the world. It was an interesting decision to build it smack next to the 1998 Jin Mao tower (to the right in the shot), which is still in the top10 tallest buildings - and gets dwarfed by its new neighbour.

Starting from scratch

To revive my interest in blogging, I have decided to start this one from scratch, and I have deleted all previous posts to this one. Many of the themes will remain, and many old topics will be re-posted but possibly with a new lay-out. Also, since I received an official complaint about providing MP3's for download, there will be no more classical music downloads or favourite song posts.