Earlier Today

The 100,000th visitor arrived, spent a few minutes reading, and moved on.
Screengrab showing the website visitor counter registering the one hundred thousandth visitor to the blog
(Screengrab of visitor 100K)

I feel as if I ought to send a prize to whoever it was that was browsing around here at 20:48 p.m. and triggered the counter to roll over into six figures.
But I guess I’ll never know. And neither will the 100K visitor.

Therein lies a tiny modern sadness. A fun sized sorrow of our time.
To be so connected yet so remote.

Time for a beer. Cheers!

Visual Echoes

I’m not really attracted to cars. I’m very much in the Cars-are-there-to-get-you-from-A-to-B camp.

I leave my car in the gutter for long periods without giving it a thought. I make an effort to not use the car, and go by train or bike whenever possible. Or just walk.

When last summer’s drought order forbidding the washing of cars with hosepipes was introduced, I didn’t give a monkey’s.

I quite like pictures of cars, however. Ever since the car was invented, illustrators have ploughed a huge amount of effort into showing the car in a friendly, shiny and sexy light.

The thought occurs to me that despite the car’s massive presence in our civilization over the last 100 years, I can’t call to mind many “fine art” images of cars, apart from the vehicles seen in war paintings. I’m sure that someone will put me right on this, and point to several great paintings featuring cars, and I eagerly await your knowledgeable feedback.

Meanwhile, have a look at the two images that follow, and try to draw a clear line between the reality and the fantasy quotient of each car. (Click the thumbnails to enlarge)

thumbnail of Holden Efijy Concept Car

When I first saw the top image, it reminded me so strongly of the car in the image below, that I had to go and check the models on the Disney “Cars” website, (Annoying music warning: Off button is at bottom right).

Doc Hudson from Pixar's Cars

Obviously they are two different cars when seen side by side, but the similarities are many. For a start both those vehicles were designed in the last five years, and they were both designed with the same computer technology, using NURBS (Non Uniform Rational B-Splines) to produce those sweetly flowing curves that are reminiscent of a time before computers were used for automobile design. (They used clay models and shaped wood created by sculptors, in answer to your next question.)

The main difference lies in the fact that the top picture is of a real car, the Holden Efijy, but only one Efijy will ever be produced, and the second picture shows Doc Hudson, a car that will never be produced at life size, but it will be manufactured in millions and sold as toys.

It’s weird living in the future, you keep bumping into the past in disguise.

Caught In The Dragnet

So often, while doing visual research for a job, I’ll be brought to a screeching halt by pictures that, while tangenital to my immediate search, are arresting enough to make me stop and make notes before resuming my searches.

Maybe I’m just easily distracted. Maybe there are many more crazy things in the world than I previously imagined.

What about this? Is there anything slightly familiar about it?

Funerary Art
(Click to see the whole picture)

These little statues are funerary art pieces used in a Japanese cemetery. (I’m trying to imagine how the stuffy Church of England would react to this blatant example of degenerate vulgariism :) being placed in an English cemetery.)

This picture and the next are part of Nemo’s great uncle’s photos at Flickr. com

You might wonder what on earth I was looking for…. :)

I was looking for pictures of Japanese stone lanterns for a little project I work on from time to time.

Here’s the second catch of the day, (and you might well wonder what on earth is so interesting about a lump of rock on a plinth)…
Monument to Deceased Dolls

Get this: It’s a Buddhist monument to discarded and unloved dolls. That’s right: Dolls.

These two images tell me more about Japan and how very different it is to the UK, than I could ever hope to read in any guidebook.

I’ve also learned how fond the Japanese are of contemplating cherry blossom in the early springtime.

The common name for the ornamental cherry is “Sakura”. Until now I’ve always associated that name with a brand of art materials. Now I know better.

High Art, Low Art.

My daughter’s best friend from school, a Russian emigrée, gave me a present today: A small handful of sweets whose wrappers were adorned with a painting by my favourite Russian painter, Ivan Shishkin.
The original of “The Morning In The Pine Forest” (УÑ‚рР¾ Ð ² Ñ Ã ¾Ã‘ Ã½Ã ¾Ã ²Ã ¾Ã ¼ Ð »Ã µÃ‘ Ã‘Æ’) hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery in St Petersburg.

I was touched that her mother had remembered a conversation we’d had months ago at New Year about Russian painters, and that she’d put these chocolates to one side for me.

Roland Barthes would have had a field day with this image.

Chocolate box version
(Click to enlarge)

Here’s the original:
Ivan Shishkin's popular Morning In The Pine Forest

Can you remember the last time you saw a masterpiece printed on a sweet wrapper?

Footnote: There’s an interesting article in Wikipedia which claims that Konstantin Savitsky might have been a co-creator of this iconic Russian masterwork.
Here’s the link to the story in Russian.

Alan Johnston’s captivity stretches into sixth week.

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston disappeared on his way home from his Gaza City office nearly six weeks ago on the 12th of March. He is feared to have been kidnapped in the lawless territory, where he was thought to have been the last international correspondent still working.

Bizarrely, one of Alan Johnston’s most recent pieces for the BBC programme “From Our Own Correspondent” was a description of the business of kidnapping in Gaza.

I vividly remember hearing his description of Palestine style kidnapping: –

In Iraq an abduction can end in the most brutal murder. But fortunately Gaza is not Iraq, nothing like it. So far, all the foreigners kidnapped here have been freed quite quickly and unharmed.

Often they have been used as bargaining chips, a way for a group of gunmen to get attention.

Gaza is awash with bands of militants: the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Jenin Brigade, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade and so on.

They used to attack the occupying Israeli troops and settlers. But the settlements were abandoned in the autumn when the army pulled out, and now the boys from the Brigades find themselves with time on their hands.

They want proper jobs in this poverty-stricken place, and usually they want to be allowed to join the security services. It is ironic really. Gaza is the only place in the world where your kidnapper’s one demand is that he should be allowed to become a policeman.

And the kidnap craze has thrown up moments of black humour.

Against the social grain

The gunmen are not always crack division militants, more Keystone Kidnappers. While an Italian journalist was being led off to a hideout he had to climb a fence. And when one of his abductors started the climb he absentmindedly handed the Italian his gun. Surely it is the first thing they teach you at kidnapper’s school, never give the hostage your machinegun.

Alan then delivers his finely nuanced but chilling assessment of the local constabulary:-

What you fear most is a bungled rescue attempt. Winkling out a hostage safely is not easy – even for the world’s best trained police – and Gaza’s finest could not really be described in that way.

There have been some emotional roller coaster rides for Alan’s parents and friends over the last few days

Last week, a previously unheard of group calling themselves the Tawhid and Jihad Brigades, claimed to have killed him to highlight the plight of Palestinian detainees held by Israel.
Days pass without any evidence being offered to confirm or deny this scary claim.

Today, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the missing BBC reporter is still alive.

“Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he’s alive,” Mr Abbas told reporters in Sweden.

Mr Abbas said he knew which group was holding Mr Johnston but did not give any details.

In Gaza, a senior security official said the earlier reports of Mr Johnston’s death were unfounded.

Mohammed al-Masri said that the available evidence suggested that he was alive and in secure conditions.

‘Good news’

Mr Johnston’s father, Graham, said he was delighted at the report.

“That’s good news, that’s really good news,” he said.

“This is the news I’ve been waiting to hear and I don’t think the Palestinian president would say this unless he was convinced it was true.

“But we still don’t have proof of life. That’s what I want desperately. It’s been nearly six weeks now.”

In a statement, the BBC also welcomed the report, adding that it wanted “firm evidence of Alan’s well-being and his immediate release”.

The signs are encouraging, but Gaza is a fractured, lawless place where truth and rumour are hard to distinguish, says the BBC’s Keith Adams.

Protests against Mr Johnston’s kidnap have been held in Britain, the Palestinian territories and other parts of the Middle East almost daily since his abduction.

In company with many thousands of well wishers, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that Mahmoud Abbas knows Alan Johnston’s state of health and his whereabouts, and that he will be freed very soon.

However, I will uncross my fingers long enough to go and sign the petition on the BBC News website.

Help Save Net Radio

UPDATED.
(See the end of this post)

I listen to a lot of internet radio while I work, and I often recommend various specialised music channels that I discover to friends according to what I think might be their musical taste.

Right now I’m busy painting some BIG backdrops for a show based on Detroit and the Motown sound, and I’ve found a fantastic soul & funk station to listen to while I work.

It plays stuff from back in the day, and I’m familiar with about one in ten tunes, but the majority of it consists of amazingly good tracks that I’ve never heard before, performed by terrific artists that I’ve never heard of before either. It’s a real ear-opener! I have to keep putting the Wacom stylus down to write down their names in a little notebook.

I can’t understand how I’ve gone so far through my listening life and never heard Shirley Brown. What a voice! Maybe she was not promoted here in the UK, and only the keen Northern Soul boys knew about her. (And all the others. Like Earl Wright…Wow! What a geat sound!)
Jerry “Boogie” McCain, anyone?

Dip into The Classic Soul Network if you’re into this sort of thing.

To the point: (This primarily affects internet radio listeners in the USA) The Copyright Royalty Board in Washington DC has tripled the royalty rates for webcasters, and it’s likely that many stations will not be able to afford to carry on broadcasting the fantastic panoply of sounds that they offer their many listeners.

Go read the manifesto over at SaveNetRadio.org and sign their petition if you want to preserve some of the diversity of radio available on the net.

I think that artists benefit enormously from people hearing their music on the web, especially if theirs is a niche or specialised sound that’s not covered by playlist driven terrestrial stations.

I know that I’m now seeking ways of getting a royalty payment to Shirley Brown, which she wouldn’t receive if internet radio weren’t as varied as it is today.

When you hear “You left a good woman for a good time”, you’ll want to bung her a royalty payment too!

While you’re here, why not drop your radio recommendation into the comment box?
It’s always good to have ones horizons expanded. :)

There’s a quote below the fold about how the (despised and reviled) RIAA has decided to shoot itself in the foot, and inflict massive collateral damage on recording artists.

UPDATE: There seems to have been a two month reprieve for the imposition of royalty rises, but the issue is far from being closed. Read the end of this BBC article, which is mostly about the IP blocking of a web based radio station, Pandora.

Read on….. Continue reading

The Revolutionary Shock Absorbing Aviation Suit

The Young M. De La Vaulx

In a last ditch attempt to rescue the family upholstery business from ruin with his new and groundbreaking marketing concept that will “Make the parachute history”, young Gaston de la Vaulx (22) poses in front of his flying machine before the inaugural test flight. (June 1908. Agence France Presse)

Before climbing into the specially adapted cockpit of his 40 hp Quelcon biplane, De la Vaulx announced to the assembled crowd: “I’ve seen the future of aviation safety, and it’s mattress shaped. No more dangling from silken parachutes! Vive le matelas! Vive La France! My bouncy suit will ensure me a place on the front page of Boing Boing very soon!”

The Shock Absorbing de la Vaulx Aviation  Suit
(Click to enlarge)

Regrettably, the de la Vaulx family firm went into receivership four weeks after this photo was taken.

Memorial Card

The image was sold as a commemorative postcard, and the proceeds went towards the cost of the excavation and subsequent re-interrment of young Gaston. Continue reading