Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q is for questions

This shot is a perfect symbolic way to end the year with in this blog - and I hardly expected that when I shot this ribbon artist in Shanghai's French Park in October. Q is for questions indeed. Seldom has my life been so full of uncertainties as right now. I said goodbye to my wife at Schiphol airport this afternoon - she is moving back to Shanghai. The intent is that I follow, but it is still uncertain what time scale we are talking about here..... anyway, we will see eachother in Shanghai for a month in April 2009.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.017 sec (1/60)
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Ma zui

Faye Wong is the uncrowned queen of mandarin pop/rock, selling millions upon millions of her albums all over East Asia. Ma zui (Anaesthesia) from 1997 is one of her best songs. The mandarin title is a play on words that cannot be translated: apart from the medical meaning, ma zui also stands for the type of high you get from love, drugs or alcohol. The song itself has a strong melody, good instrumentation and stunning vocals. Some of her greatest successes have been mandarin covers from artists such as Tori Amos, Cranberries and Cocteau Twins, but this one is an original Chinese production.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Moonstar

Continuing with the China theme on the last day of the year, which is fitting as the resurrection of this blog in October kicked off with a series of posts on China as well. Here is one of those fascinating old Shanghai posters, this one an advertisement for shoes.

Vintage Posters

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The year 2008 in photographs

An excellent overview of the highlights and lowlights of 2008 as captured on camera, from the trivial to the mind numbing tragedies, from the Olympic Games in Beijing (above) to the first black president of the USA, to the Russia-Georgia conflict. Three web pages, 120 shots. Highly recommended.

web site

Pearls

A third Flickr fractal art specialist joins the blog. Going by the unpronounceable name of ¶Ĥ¯ѓĎєČ, more of his or her art will be displayed the coming weeks. We kick off with a beautiful fractal composition called perles - indeed recalling strings of pearls.

All rights retained by the creator.

Flickr

Shattered

It is seldom that you encounter a photograph where both the idea and the execution are original and absolutely flawless. Well, my Flickr friend risquillo managed to achieve this rare feat with his shot Year 2008. Simply magnificent how the burst of the water balloon has been captured here.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Monday, December 29, 2008

MacDowell, the romantic American

As so many other interesting composers, Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) is doomed to be remembered mainly by one composition: the piano piece To a wild rose. It's a pity, because his oeuvre, although conventionally romantic, is well worth exploring. This Naxos CD is a good introduction to his orchestral output. The first suite (1893) is in five parts and explores a fairytale like world, with some musical links to the likes of Liszt and Wagner. The second suite (1897), named the Indian, is perhaps the more interesting of the two. It depicts scenes from the American Indian life, with some musical themes taking from their cultural heritage. To complete the CD, we have his early tone poem Hamlet and Ophelia (1885), an intriguing combination of two musical character studies, the more dramatic Hamlet and the melancholic Ophelia. The performances by the Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa are fine, and so is the recording quality. Give this a try if you like late romantic composers such as Bruch and Raff.

Amazon

Pisa clock

Modern designs can be amazing to look at, but sometimes practicality gets sacrificed. This clock is a good example. With the absence of the usual hands, you can still figure out the time when looking at it. Unfortunately by the time you have done so, your train has gone. On the other hand, this Korean design is quite affordable at less than 100 USD.

web site

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Luminous

We spent Christmas day at my brother's place, and of course I took my new camera (my first digital mirror reflex) along. I quite like this shot of one of the christmas decorations.

PS: apparently I am not the only one who likes it - this is the fifth shot of mine to make Explore.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.025 sec (1/40)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 28 mm
ISO speed 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Intimacy

A frequently heard complaint is that the art of making beautiful album covers has died out with the replacement of LP's by CD's. I am glad to see that even an album released as recently as October this year can have really stunning cover art. No clue what they sound like, but the cover (photography by Perry Curties) is brilliant.

All Music

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Patricia de la Rosa

Time for another great glamour photographer, Patricia de la Rosa. This portrait of Jessica Alba is a good example of the classical use of a beautiful model in a natural setting. As with many contemporary photographers, wikipedia does not include her (yet), but some more information can be found on her website linked to below.

Florian Schneider

Le gramophone

Another vintage poster to enjoy. I love how parrots were used to promote the relatively new invention of the gramophone (I guess we are talking around 1900 here) - and how the model depicted is exactly like the famous one used with the Nipper dog as the symbol for His Masters Voice.

Vintage Posters

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Around this time last year, a freak combination of continued fog and sub-zero temperatures turned large part of the Netherlands into a fairytale landscape for a short time. Everybody was out there, taking pictures. I have several in my own Flickr photostream, incidentally also called Winter Wonderland, but this one by my Flickr friend buteijn is simply magnificent.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Fairytale of New York

The fifth and final in a series of videos around christmas. This is the song that (at least in the UK in Ireland) repeatedly was voted the best christmas song ever - and I admit that it comes close to the previous one by Jim Croce in my own appreciation. As time progresses, it may even catch up: I actually had never heard the song until christmas ast year and it is definitely growing on me. It is perhaps an unlikely combination: the Irish folk rockers The Pogue and Scottish singer Kirsty MacColl (R.I.P.) teamed up in 1987 to record this folk style ballad about a drunken man's Christmas Eve reverie about holidays past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank. After an inebriated old man also incarcerated in the jail cell sings a passage from the Irish drinking ballad "The Rare Old Mountain Dew", the drunken man (MacGowan) begins to dream about a failed relationship. The remainder of the song (which may be an internal monologue) takes the form of a call and response between two Irish immigrants, lovers or ex-lovers, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, reminiscing and bickering on Christmas Eve in New York City. MacColl's melodious singing contrasts with the harsh sound of MacGowan's voice and the lyrics are sometimes bittersweet, sometimes plain bitter: "Happy Christmas your arse/ I pray God it's our last" (taken from wikipedia). There are various video's of the song on YouTube, but the ones with the original footage of the performers end prematurely. So in the end, I opted for this one, which has the added advantage that it shows the lyrics.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Snowscape with cows

Time for a seasonal painting by one of impressionism's greatest masters, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Although eclipsed in the general public's view by Monet, his contribution to the development of this style should not be underestimated. This snowscape from 1874 was painted in the French village of Montfoucault and it depicts the home of fellow painter Ludovic Piette. More on Pissarro in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It doesn't have to be that way

The fourth in a series of videos around christmas. For me, christmas songs do not come better than this. The great late Jim Croce (1943-1973) created some of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century and this one, recorded the year he died in a plane crash, is a perfect example of his art. The first verse immediately sets the scene for another of those lost love ballads that he should have gotten a patent on: "Snowy nights and Christmas lights, icy windowpanes, make me wish that we could be together again. And the windy winter avenues just don't seem the same, and the Christmas carols sound like blues, but the choir is not to blame." Beautiful song, and the fact that the "video" is a continuous still shot just has to be accepted.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have yourself an Escher little Christmas

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is a great seasonal shot created by their member bpkelsey for the Holiday mod ren 2 contest. A beautiful transformation of one of Escher's best known drawings.

All rights retained by the creator.

Worth1000

National library of Belarus

I stumbled upon this strange building in a list of special libraries. Well, the building is special as well. It was designed by the architects Victor Kramarenko and Michael Vinogradov and was opened in Belarus' capital Minsk in 2006 - just how many buildings are there that are shaped like a rhombicuboctahedron (diamond)? The building is covered by glass panels and during the day all 24 sides sparkle as a real diamond, whilst LED lighting takes over that task at night. More on this building can be found in the wikipedia link below.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter in the water village

This painting of my wife dates back about 10 years ago - before we met. It depicts a scene in one of the small ancient water villages around Shanghai, some of which unfortunately have become tourist traps in more recent years. I still remember the strange feeling when I first saw this one, as we lived in Singapore at the time, about as far removed from snow as you can imagine.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Silent night (Oiche Chiuin)

The third in a series of videos around christmas. There are reasons why christmas classics have become classics, even though they tend to be overplayed. Perhaps the most played of them all is Gruber's Silent night, dating back to 1818. This is the most beautiful version I know - and it is refreshing to hear deviating lyrics, as Enya decided to record this everwhite in 1989 in a Gaelic version.
Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player)

YouTube

Monday, December 22, 2008

Turbulence

More fractal art by chriscreek - and high time to get some more colour into the blog again. The wave like sub-patterns are very attractive and there is a clear spacey feeling to the composition.

All rights retained by the creator.

Flickr

No loss of enthusiasm

The idea of this little game 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 Britannia Hospital.
[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 Winston Churchill: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Dance away the tears, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Footlights MT Light 60/50 Beige.

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.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bianca van der Werf

Last week I came across the creations of this talented Dutch photographer thanks to an exhibition at the place I work. Browsing her web site confirmed that she is well worth checking out. Makes you wonder how many more excellent artistic photographers are out there - that we will never hear of. Her website is linked to below - highly recommended.

Sheryl Nields

Cutt Cutlery

Maybe it would not make for the most confortable eating experience (that spoon looks vicious), but it sure would be a conversation piece during dinner! This modern cutlery set comes from the design firm Buchegger, Denoth, Feichtner Design.

web site

A wake to tranquility

What better way to honour the shortest day of the year than to include a photograph of the rising sun? And this must be one of the best in that category that I have seen on Flickr. It was shot by my Flickr friend Rick (word artist) on the cliff tops of Beachy Head at the English Channel. Marvellous composition and colours, and I love how the horizon seems to bend inwards by the weight of the sun.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr