Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pretty flamingo

Sometimes the next post is so logical. This flamingo shot is one of the best of its kind that I have seen. I came across this two weeks ago in the stream of fellow Flickrite ricdiggle, and it was an instant fave. Fascinating curvatures and marvellous combination of details in the feathers and luscious colour.

All rights retained by the photographer.



Animals rarely feature in my wife's art, except for the occasional horse and once in a while a small bird. To include a large flamingo like this is unique. The colour scheme, which led to the name I gave to this work (she is responsible for the Chinese names, I am for the English names), also stands out in her repertoire. The trademark featureless face is still there of course.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Gubaidulina, a Tatar treat

Perhaps the greatest living composer. Sofia Gubaidulina (born 1931) is a Russian composer of Tatar origins. Not surprisingly, her daringly experimental style quickly met with official opposition from the Soviets, and it was the support of Shostakovich that saw her true. Her style is highly original and very modern, with a unique way of combining less usual musical instruments. This Naxos CD is a great introduction to her work. It features two of her best compositions: In croce (for cello and organ - or bayan, the latter option having been chosen here) and The seven last words for cello, bayan and strings. Both reflect the religiousness that pervades large parts of her work. The third composition included on the disk is also very worthwhile: Silenzio, for bayan, violin and cello. The performances are excellent, with soloists Elsbeth Moser (bayan, i.e. Russian accordeon) and Maria Kliegel (cello) taking the main roles, supported by Kathrin Rabus on violin and the Transylvanica Camerata, conducted by Gyorgy Selmeczi. A highly recommended disc of a highly recommended composer.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Circle sculpture from the twilight zone

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is an original shot created by their member CraftLord for the Illusions contest. An amazingly realistic visualization of a well-known optical illusion.

All rights retained by the creator.


Blue Twister

Abstraction and minimalism - two of my favourite sub-genres combined in one photograph. An excellent shot by fellow Flickrite Warriorwriter. The subject is a sculpture at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia (USA).

All rights retained by the photographer.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The best pop/rock/ballad songs

Whenever I post a video of a pop/rock/ballad song in my blog, I always attach an Art Rock rating. There is a limited number of songs that score 9/10 or 10/10 - and I have collected all of them with a bit more information on each song in the web site linked to at the end of this post. The number is still steadily growing, and has reached 648 at the time of this post. To give you an idea, here is a random sample of twelve: Nostalgia (David Sylvian), Another one bites the dust (Queen), Lucky man (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Suzanne (Peter Gabriel), Ai de dai jia (Gigi Leung), Ashes to ashes (David Bowie), Afscheid (Robert Long), Somewhere only we know (Keane), Tequila sunrise (Eagles), China grove (Doobie Brothers), Lovers cross (Jim Croce), Carpet crawlers (Genesis).

web site

Flame perfume bottles

Perfume bottles by well-know brands often come in intriguing modern designs. This set however is not linked to any brand, and stands on its own. It is a creation by British desginer Louise Edwards, who said: "Exciting glass for the modern interior with an emphasis on creative design and skilled craftsmanship."

web site

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

World of dreams

Another post on the theme of Photo manipulation art, blending real photos with synthetic elements for a sometimes surreal result. This work is actually by my wife, and is a blend of her photographs and her paintings. More of her photo art can be found on the Flickr collection page linked to below.


Ophelia farewell

The second time that my Flickr friend Il malmostoso features in the blog, and it will not be the last. This is one of those incredibly moving shots that you can find throughout his stream, sinister, disturbing, yet romantic.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lest we forget

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day - marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) by Soviet troops. A fitting moment to post this shot of mine. One of the most emotional moments in my life was our visit in the spring of 2008 to the remains of said concentration camp. This photograph is from an art installation in one of the camp houses. With the lighting conditions, the blurriness was unavoidable for a handheld shot, but I find it actually contributes to the total feeling. In spite of its clear technical shortcomings, I picked this emotional shot as one of my 12 most memorable shots of 2008.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.4 sec
Aperture: f/2.5
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


There are always alternatives

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 Erlhaz Formation.
[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 Lois McMaster Bujold: The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Mene mene tekel, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Showcard Gothic 30/35 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.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The bull

And in honour of the new year, whether you want tocall it ox, cow, bull or water buffalo - I have heard them all used - one of my favourite art works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). In general I am not crazy about his style, but his numerous cubistic bull paintings (apparently a subject he liked) are very much worth while. This piece is one of a remarkable series of eleven lithographs, begun on 5 December 1945 and finished on 17 January 1946. At first Picasso made a wash drawing on the lithographic stone. Over the next month he reworked the image again and again, using a pen, brush and scraper. Once Picasso had finished reworking each image, Mourlot printed eighteen copies of that state. The use of the pen and scraper was very unusual in lithography, but was typical of Picasso’s inventive approach. More on Picasso in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Gong xi fa cai!

I wish my wife, our Shanghai family and our Shanghai friends a very happy Chinese New Year. The year of the ox has begun. May it bring us all we long for.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Midnight pavement

One of the most original photographers on Flickr is undoubtedly for me Shaun Keenan. He tends to work in series that makes you think "how can he find so much inspiration in such a limited theme?" A good example is his black on white minimalism that I will post an example of in the coming weeks. This one is from a current series focusing on puddles. The result is unbelievable. And if a postrock band band like Godspeed you! Black emperor is still looking for a design for their next album cover, they need look no further.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Chris Jordan

Some photographers aim for beauty (in particular glamour and fashion of course), some aim to make you think. One of the best in the latter category is Chris Jordan. I was originally going to post some of his work in the thought provoking series of American mass consumption, but then I stumbled upon his shattering series of shots taken in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's disaster. A fascinating, be it disturbing, photodocumentary. More of his work can be found on his website linked to below.


Beautiful freak

This is one of the most fascinating covers of the last decade. It is disturbing, haunting, and beautiful in an extremely unusual way. Everything comes together in this design: Ann Giordano's picture of the little girl (and I hope by God that it was distorted somehow) that almost foreshadows the later horror classic movie The Ring, the band's logo and the fitting font chosen for the album title. An absolute classic (and great music as well).

All Music

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Barking owl

It is too easy to make a bridge from the previous post to this one in the lines of "It's a hoot" - so I won't even bother. This is one of the best bird photographs I have seen for a long time. Razor sharp with exemplary depth of field, marvellous colours, and I love how the curve of the bird's wing comes back in the shape in the background. It was taken by fellow Flickrite Erik K Veland.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Grieg's piano concerto

Time for a bit of comic relief. Comedy and classical music usually do not mix that well, if we except the sketches of Victor Borge. But I have a soft spot in my heart for this sketch by one of Britain's funniest combinations of the seventies, Morecambe and Wise. Helped by a brilliantly deadpan guest performance of director Andre Preview Previn, they give a rendering of Grieg's piano concerto that defies description. "I'm playing all the right notes—but not necessarily in the right order." - simply brilliant.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Speed demon

Recently I discovered a fourth supplier of great fractal images on Flickr: Manas Dichow. This example, which also could have been called Steel Rose as far as I am concerned, is a great and original fractal.

All rights retained by the creator.


Finlandia Hall Helsinki

This beautiful building cannot be captured in one shot as a quick google image search will demonstrate. The Finlandia Hall is a concert hall with a congress wing in the Finnish capital Helsinki. The marble clad building was designed by the famous local architect Alvar Aalto. The work began in 1967 and was finally completed in 1971. More on this building can be found in the wikipedia link below.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mirror pool

From one seascape to the next, and although this is a photograph, the skilled processing turned it into something akin to a painting. This excellent shot was taken by my Flickr friend xxxrmt, of a beautiful scenery in Loch Long, Scotland (looks very much like the New Zealand sounds).

All rights retained by the photographer.


The high shore

One of my favourite painters, and a bit late to show him in this blog for the first time. German-American painter Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is for me one of the finest painter to have been affected by the cubism movement - in addition to obvious expressionist influence as well. This painting dates back to 1923, but I have not been able to retrieve where this was painted. More on Feininger in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Up up and away

Even though I find myself lacking inspiration at the moment - no doubt due to the circumstances - I am happy that I can still turn out photographs that apparently resonate with other Flickrites. This shot, taken about a week ago, became to my surprise the seventh of mine to reach Explore, the 500 best Flickr photographs of the day (best in this case being determined by the obscure Explore algorithm). I shot this 5 minutes walking from our home, and decided to put the icy reflection upside down for an interesting effect - inspired by recent work of two of my favourite Flickrites: Shaun Keenan and macaz1977.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 38 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0



A lovely art deco poster dating back to around 1900, and ascribed to designer le Fernel. The subject appears to be some French soft drink of that time.

Vintage Posters

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Has anybody seen "Purple"

High time to get some more colour into the blog again - and I can think of few of my Flickr favourites that are as colourful as this one. This imaginative still life was created by my Flickr friend Rod Anzaldua, and it was the well deserved winner of the Colour and shape assignment within my favourite Flickr group Life thru a lenz.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Ahhh... if only.....

With all the beautiful compositions that we can choose from in the vast vaults of classical music, I still sometimes wonder about what we might have had, if only a certain composer would have thought of it - or lived long enough to do it. And I am talking about something more specific than say a 10th symphony by Beethoven. Let me give you three examples of what I mean.

Schubert's Winterreise for baritone and symphony orchestra
The Winterreise (Winter travel) song cycle for male voice and piano still stands out as one of the best in its genre, and for me nothing topped it in that respect until Mahler came along. I have always thought that the bleakness of these songs would lend themselves very well for an orchestrated version. Schubert himself was no stranger to the re-use of themes and ideas from one genre into the other (for instance themes from impromptus for piano solo were recycled into a string quartet and an orchestral work), and had he lived longer, he might actually have tried this with a symphonic orchestra - the unfinished eighth symphony demonstrates how well he could handle orchestral textures by then. I was not surprised to find out that this idea of mine had actually been tried out, by contemporary composer Hans Zender, but I doubt whether the result is in line with my expectations for what Schubert might have done.

Brahms' clarinet concerto
There is no shortage of great clarinet concertos (Mozart, Nielsen, Finzi come to mind), but I think a Brahms concerto would have given them quite some fierce competition. Brahms composed two well-respected piano concertos, a double concerto for violin and cello, and one of the best violin concertos, so trying his hand at a clarinet concerto would not have been strange. Even more so, since some of his best chamber music revolved around that instrument, especially the two clarinet sonatas and the gorgeous clarinet quintet, one of my all-time favourite classical compositions. It is important that these were late works, and maybe time itself prevented Brahms from extending his new found love for the clarinet to a concerto. As a curiosity: Yuri Bashmet has transcribed the clarinet quintet into a concerto - but for his viola rather than clarinet (probably inspired by the fact that the Brahms clarinet sonatas are often performed on that instrument instead).

Mahler's Das Lied von der Toten Kinder
Perhaps the most likely of the three. Mahler's song cycle Kindertotenlieder (songs of dead children) for voice and orchestra by itself already has symphonic allure in its construction - moreover, the composer himself stated that these five songs were intended as one inseparate unit, and in performing them their continuity should not be interfered with. Of course, recycling songs into symphonies was something he has done frequently, and I can imagine that extending the orchestral lines of the five songs from this cycle could have created a symphonic master piece of the same standing as his famous Das Lied von der Erde.

Ahhh.... if only.....

The imaginary album cover I used as illustration is based on a painting by Friedrich (Monk by the sea). More on Friedrich in the wikipedia article linked to below.