Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Super Stardom in the Making - David Archuleta

Just saw a truly knock-out performance of John Lennon's 'Imagine' - by 17 year old American Idol contestant David Archuleta.

A great great performance - the audience can't hold back throuhout, one of the judges cries. Cos David makes the song absolutely his own with this beautiful arrangement, not pushed too hard in the singing or mannered in any way. You are not aware of technique - but just seem to directly experience the meanings of the lyric though the music. Moved me like you wouldn't believe.

And it's so very difficult to do anything with such an iconic song and with the legendary Lennon performance in everyone's mind. But David Archuleta nails it absolutely - a superstar of the (very near) future!

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Mini-Post - Albert Einstein or Marilyn Munroe!

I came across this curious image yesterday - from a friend. There are a lot like this out there but this one grabs your attention. Mine at least.

If you look at it close it's Albert Einstein. But if you move back and look again it's Marilyn Munroe. Sometimes someone in between! I find if I squint and let my eyes go fuzzy, then it's easier to get to have the Hollywood experience!

Not quite sure how it works but it seems rather amazing! Gestalt psychology might have something to say about it - how we take in only a few aspects of anything we see for an interpretation i.e. put together some fragments in the mind into a complete image. Based on past experience and expectations. And perhaps here you somehow, at varying distances, see these selected aspects of an image slightly differently and so put them together and interpret them as a different whole. Any other ideas guys?

Try to restrain yourself from drag-oriented comments - by putting this final note in here, I obviously haven't!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Remembering the Domestic Charm and Intimacy of Pompeii's Frescoes

I first went to Italy when I used to live in Europe. I traveled on my own all over the country for just over 6 weeks. By train and bus. Visiting Rome, Milan, Ravenna, Florence, Perugia, San Gimignano, Sienna, Assisi, Bologna, Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Naples and Pompeii. It was an amazingly intense experience - and I was pretty buggered (and not in a good way) when I got back home to London.

One of the things I most remember are the beautiful life-sized frescoes in the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii, which as everyone knows disappeared with the Vesuvius eruption of 24 August 79 AD, only to be re-discovered in 1748.

There is much debate over what the frescoes depict. Some say the initiation through specific rites and rituals of a woman into the cult of Dionysus. Others, the rituals involved with preparing a young woman for the transition into married life. Whatever, it's the domestic charm and intimacy of the scenes I loved. With their subtlety of observation of how emotions are expressed.

The part of the cycle I now recall best is that with the woman dramatically swirling her cape in the air, her left hand raised and fingers elegantly splayed out - on the extreme right ...

... and the boy intently but glumly reading his scroll, while his mother gently and encouragingly rubs his right ear between her fingers, another volume rolled up and ready in her other hand ...

... and finally the detail of the strange bug-eyed figure looking in through the open door at the boy peering into a bowl - on the far left.

Two other things captured my imagination at the time.

The first were the local bars or 'thermopolia', looking as though they had just opened, ready for the business of selling wine and hot food from their terracotta containers or 'dolia' sunk into masonry counters.

And the second the death casts of Pompeiians we are all very familiar with.

What I've enjoyed most about this post has been googling the images of these old 'friends'.

Makes me want to grab my big leather Kenneth Cole shoulder bag and jump on the first plane to Italy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Personal Diaries - Who are They For and What to Put in Them?

A Personal Diary Entry of A. Margaret Jefferies (1912-1992) - Trip to Nigeria 1951

I kept a diary when I was in high school. And when I lived in Paris. And China. And a couple of times since. Got a whole stack now that go up several feet when piled up!

I thought the idea was to be able to be absolutely straight forward about everything. But, particularly looking back over some of these volumes, I understood I had constructed various versions of myself and the way I see the world. And came to the conclusion that I had practised the necessary self-deceptions we all do to protect ourselves from ourselves.

So, in Christopher Isherwood fashion, I started to try to peel back these illusions on an inward journey. And I think I'm getting closer to 'the truth/a truth' about myself/myselves.

So I have good reason to continue some kind of personal writing.

I did think that blogging was the diary mode of the C21.

But I know now I'd bore you all to within an inch of your lives with the kind of stuff that fascinates me, about me. Of course I know there's a generality even in specific and individual experiences. And don't get me wrong - there's still tons of intimate and uncensored personal stuff I want to put here. But I just realize it's not every thing. Or even very much.

But I hope what I manage to put here will excite the organ between your ears ... as well as a the organ between your legs!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Given Any Thought to Moving Lately?

Do you know the real estate agent who's got these little get-away places on his/her books?!

Money would have to be no object, of course. Just nerves of steel!

And if the modernist thing isn't for you, then you might like the old world charm of the next two.

I'm half packed and ready to go!

My first bid will be on #1 - though isn't it the very most scary!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

An Owl in the Garden

In bed at 6am and I heard frantic twittering in the garden.

At first I imagined the birds were signaling their fellow creatures that there was a cat at large!

Peering out through the curtains I saw a couple of crested whatevers darting all about in an agitated manners, and flapping their wings frantically.

I scanned about for a predator. Nothing.

But then I was astonished to see a huge owl, all fluffed up and asleep on one of the branches of a tree.

I was frantically rushing all about ... for my camera!

Spooky scary isn't he! A real raptor moment!

I've been google imaging him/her but can't find a match. Maybe a Brown Owl? Or an Athene or Spotted Owl? Or even the Powerful Owl? Anyone have any ideas?
Forgeries of Ingenuous Australian Art

A recent court case here caught my attention. For reasons I'll explain.

Rover Thomas (c1925-1998)

Rover Thomas - Authentic Painting - 'Cyclone Tracy' 1991 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

It involved the jailing of Ivan (67) and Pamela Liberto (65) for forging works by indigenous Australian artists, a present boom investment market.

'Earth's Creation' (1995) by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996) set a record for indigenous painting in 2007 by achieving the sale price of $1,056,000.

Earth's Creation (1995) Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996)

The works that were the subject of the court case were by Rover Thomas.

Robyn Sloggett gave expert testimony that, in the desert where such works had been produced, sand typically blew over and adhered onto the surface of canvases. "We have (genuine) works by Rover Thomas where sand has been picked up in the paint. But you expect it to be blown on to the surface".

Sloggett said that forgers added sand into the paint to simulate this. A difference that was detectable.

Rover Thomas 'Cross Roads' - Forged Painting

Qhat is curious in so many of these cases of faking is that expects, often of high standing in the art community, initially determine vehemently that a particular work is genuine ... only to mumblingly and fidgittingly recant. The head of Sotheby's Aboriginal Art, Tim Klingender, declared 'Cross Roads' to be genuine but changed his view when he noticed a larger 'version' on offer in 2004 in a Christie's Modern Aboriginal Art catalog.

Having watched a bit of (okay, a lot of) 'Crime Investigators' lately on TV - 'addiction' would not be too strong a word - I have become intrigued by the science that facilitates detection of crimes. From the ubiquitous luminol test for determining the presence of blood, through various kinds of xxx-scopy for identifying elements/substances/etc in/on just about anything, to the latest techniques for extracting DNA from all things.

So when this nice bit of detective work in relation to forgeries came my way, well I was googling like crazy to get the whole unabridged picture. Pun, yep!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost Pharonic Crocodiles - In Eastern Mauritania

Mauritania - North-Western Africa

I've just been watching a documentary on Foxtel on the search for crocodiles descended from ancient Egyptian pharonic stock. The creatures were worshiped through the Crocodile God, Sobeck ...

... whose cult was centered on the Crocodilopolis (!) in the Fayum, an oasis out of Cairo which is connected to the Nile by a pharonic channel to ensure its water supply. I visited the Fayum a few years back - it still has horse-drawn carriages for taxis!

The status of crocodiles in ancient times was realized in their mummification and entombment.

Mummified Pharonic Crocodile

Mummified Pharonic Crocodile

Current thinking had been that the descendants of these ancient crocodiles 'died out' in upper Egypt in the C19.

But Tara Shine has located living relatives in eastern Mauritania, animals genetically related to their ancient counterparts though now developed into a new species.

Tara Shine in Mauritania

Tara Shine with a Mauritanian Croc

In the rainy season, these C21 croc relos live in lakes and wet lands that form on the southern edge of the Sahara Dessert.

However, in the eight month long dry season when there is no surface water, they retreat to 15 metre deep multi-branched underground burrows and 'hibernate'. Which surprised scientists as these animals are rarely seen to exist far from permanent water.

8,000-10,000 years ago, this area probably used to be lush savannah and grasslands. The Mauritanian crocodiles adapted over time to the ever drier conditions of their environment by becoming much smaller than relatives elsewhere (1.5 metres compared with 5 metres) - with this being the argument for their being a new species. Such dwarfism occurs when there is a small supply of food and animals grow slowly and reach small adult size.

Young crocodilians hatch and immediately head, without maternal aid, for caves below ground. Another different adaptation.

Tara discovered these Mauritanian reptiles through tribes people who sustained other smaller populations through hand-feeding and caring. They treat the creatures in ways not dissimilar to ancient Egyptian practice, perhaps an ancient memory trace or based in oral tradition.
Sade - 'By Your Side'

Listen carefully to the words my friends, and loose yourself in the music ...

... and if you don't get a lump in your throat (a big one), I'll wanna know why!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Imperial Sceptre of Roman Emperor Maxentius (~312AD)

My friend David Oliver emailed me about a recent archeological find at the base of the Palatine Hill in Rome. It is the imperial sceptre of the Emperor Maxentius (306-316AD) - the only example of a sceptre ever found. It has been restored and is now on display in the National Museum of Rome. The blue orb at the top represents the earth. The grip was made of orichalcum, a gold-coloured alloy of brass.

The sceptre was introduced by the first Roman emperor, Augustus (63BC-AD14), as a symbol of imperial authority.

Emperor Augustus (63BC-AD14)

Maxentius died in battle at the Milvian Bridge in a power struggle with his brother-in-law, Constantine. And it is thought that the sceptre, wrapped in silk and linen, was buried there in its wooden box to hide it from the Emperor's opponents.

Emperor Maxentius (306-316AD)

Maxentius is remembered for the Circus of Maxentius, best preserved of the Roman circuses.

Circus of Maxentius, Rome

Circus of Maxentius, Rome

The obelisk, which was situated at the very centre of this circus, was not actually an ancient Egyptian artifact but a Roman copy.

Plan of Circus of Maxentius, Rome

It was transported to and erected in the Piazza Navona, itself developed on the site of a Roman circus of the 1st century AD, the Stadium of Domitian.

Piazza Navona, Rome - on the site of the Stadium of Domitian (1st Century AD)

Obelisk at Piazza Navona, Rome

I must say I see the sceptre as more of a curio than something of serious artistic worth, though of obvious historical importance.

And so I admit to being a bit disappointed. Maybe I expected it glittering with remnants of gold and jewels ... whereas this supreme object of imperial power and glory seems ... a tad in the plebean side!

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Dose of Levity

Voted Best Joke of the Year in Australia

Kiwi walks into his bedroom with a sheep under his arm and says: "Darling, this is the pig I have sex with when you have a headache."

His boyfriend is lying in bed and replies: "I think you'll find that's a sheep, you idiot."

The Kiwi says: "I think you'll find I wasn't talking to you."

Just a Great Joke

A young man moved into a new apartment and went to the lobby to put his name on his mailbox.

While there, a hot slightly older guy came out of the apartment next to the mailboxes, wearing only a robe. The guy smiled at the young man and started a conversation with him. As they talked, his robe slipped open, and it was obvious that he had nothing else on.

The young man broke into a sweat and tried to maintain eye contact. After a few minutes, the older guy placed his hand on the young man's arm and said, 'Let's go to my apartment, ... I hear someone coming.'

The young man followed him into his apartment. The older guy closed the door and leaned against it, allowing the robe to fall off completely. Now nude, he asked, 'What would you say is my best feature?'

Flustered and embarrassed, the young guy finally squeaked 'It's got to be your ears.'

Astounded and a little hurt, the older guy said 'My ears? Look at these pecs; they are pumped and firm. I work out every day and my butt is real solid. Look at my skin - no blemishes anywhere. How can you think that the best part of my body is my ears?'

Clearing his throat, he stammered 'Outside, when you said you heard someone coming ... that was me!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) - A Great 'Amateur'

Jacques-Henri Lartigue trained as a painter, and practised photography as an amateur, something that gave his images a certain freedom from both professional constraints and their often accompanying (and self-conscious) 'artistic' considerations. As a result, his photographs often have something of the quality of snapshots - playful, immediate, uncalculated, unpolished, often less than structured and of the moment.

He was 'discovered' in the 1960's - at the age of 69.

Lartigue was obviously fascinated by many of the themes and obsessions of the various ages during which he took his pictures. And dabbled with a range of styles of the day, selecting what he felt would best reveal the essences of any subject he was dealing with.

So techniques to demonstrate speed and movement in the 1910's and 1920's.

In the opening image, there is the 'leaning' of the racing car to the right with the distortion of the wheels in the same direction, and the 'tilt' of the spectators in the other direction communicating that they are speedily being past by.

Blurring was also commonly used to communicate speed. And frozen moment techniques as a counterpoint to action.

He was often asked how he achieved the second last image above. And would reply 'I just asked her to jump!'.

Lartigue was also drawn to capturing the fashionable and social world.

I particularly love informal quality of the last photo of John Szarkowski, created by its seemingly accidental partial decapitation.

And admire the almost purely formal qualities of the second last image, reminiscent of some of the images of Aubrey Beardsley where the design almost overwhelms the representation, such as in 'The Peacock Cape'.

There were his images in a commercial mode - you see them as you would turn the pages of a magazine of the 20's, 30's, 40's or 50's.

And there were the purely quirky and most 'unprofessional' works - you can just imagine finding these in an old family album recently discovered in the attic.


Dad was so cute as a kid. And what a funny old thing Great Uncle Cyril was!

Finally, a great landscape ...

... that by its composition and placement of the camera in relation to the sunlight has almost been abstracted out of representation.