Friday, September 30, 2011

Call Waiting

i-Phone Friday today features the spectacular Petronas Towers connecting bridge that spans between the two towers at Levels 41 and 42 taken on a rather gloomy and rainy afternoon.

This photo epitomizes that frustrating feeling of anticipation when waiting on a telephone call. Maybe your waiting on that call back from the girl you have asked out for a date, or perhaps that important call back about the job you recently interviewed for, or maybe even those crucial medical results. Whatever it is you can waste a tremendous amount of time just looking at the phone and waiting.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

West Coast Paradise

One of my favourite spots to visit in my home country of Scotland is the north west of country and the little village of Plockton is one of the most idyllic and quiet spots to stay at for a couple of days just to unwind. This part of the country seems to have a micro climate helped by the Gulf stream currents and you can see some tropical style trees and plants growing here. The sheltered sea loch provides a safe refuge for the fishing boats and few pleasure yachts as can be clearly seen in this image.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sound of The Sea

Sounds of the Sea by HighlanderImages

This is the idyllic setting of Penang Island in Malaysia taken from the 3rd floor of the E&O Hotel, Georgetown one morning as the local fisherman came in to check his lines. I was testing out my Soundman binaural microphones to record the ambient sounds of the sea, the birds (comprising one very vocal large black crow), a gardner sweeping leaves and the sound of the boatman.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Space & Time

Getting many different elements of a photograph to work together at the same time is usually very difficult .... or some would say lucky, but in this case I was very pleased with the final result. Shooting in Siem Reap, Cambodia to prepare a story about orphans I had the opportunity to shoot inside the Sunrise Orphanage to capture aspects of the rehabilitation of many of these unfortunate orphans with classes in Khmer, dance, arts, computer, music, etc. This shot was taken during a dance class and I like this photo for many reasons. It captured my intended storyline, the 3 girls are neatly and geometrically arranged in a triangle, the eye contact of the two girls at the rear showing their concentration is perfect, the beautiful reflections of the two girl in the shiny floor tiles and the purposely out of focus foreground girl in her dance pose acts as an anchor point.

When it comes down to it, it's all about time and space to capture these elements in the optimum location or space at the precise time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wisdom and Knowledge Shall Be The Stability Of Thy Times

New York City has some wonderful architecture and this frieze which sits above the entrance to the GE Building epitomizes the design and style seen in many of these great buildings of that era. The GE Building is a slim Art Deco skyscraper and the focal point of Rockefeller Center. At 850 ft (259 m) with 70 floors, it is the seventh tallest building in New York and the 30th tallest in the United States. Built in 1933 and originally called the RCA Building, it is one of the most famous and recognized skyscrapers in New York. The frieze above the main entrance was executed by Lee Lawrie and depicts Wisdom, along with a phrase from scripture that reads "Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times", originally found in the Book of Isaiah, 33:6.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Notre-Dame Basilica, Ho Chi Minh

The continuing Sunday theme of religious photography continues today with the magnificent Notre-Dame Basilica in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica (Vietnamese: Vương cung thánh đường Đức Bà Sài Gòn or Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn), officially Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception (Vietnamese: Vương cung thánh đường Chính tòa Đức Mẹ Vô nhiễm Nguyên tội) is a cathedral located in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters (190 feet).

Following the French conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon, the Roman Catholic Church established a community and religious services for French colonialists. The first church was built on today's Ngo Duc Ke Street. There had been a Vietnamese pagoda, which had been abandoned during the war. Bishop Lefevre decided to make this pagoda a church.
The first church was too small. Thus, in 1863, Admiral Bonard decided to build a wooden church on the bank of Charner canal (Kinh Lớn). Lefevre put the first stone for construction of the church on 28 March 1863. The construction was completed two years later and was called "Saigon Church". When the wooden church was damaged by termites, all church services were held in the guest-chamber of the French Governor's Palace. This palace would later be turned into a seminary until the Notre-Dame Cathedral was completed.
After the design competition, bids were accepted for construction. Again, J. Bourad was the successful bidder and became supervisor of constructions.
Originally, there were three proposed sites for construction:
  • On the site of the former test school (today, this is at the corner of Le Duan Boulevard and Hai Ba Trung Street).
  • At Kinh Lon (today it is Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard)
  • At the present site where the cathedral is situated.
All building materials were imported from France. The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille. Although the contractor did not use coated concrete, these bricks have retained their bright red color until today.
On 7 October 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert laid the first stone in an inaugural ceremony. The construction of the cathedral took three years. On Easter Day, 11 April 1880, a blessing ceremony and ceremony of completion were solemnly organized in presence of the Governor of Cochinchina Charles Le Myre de Vilers. One can see the granite plate inside the main entry gate commemorating the start and completion dates and designer. The total cost was 2,500,000 French francs (at that time price). At the beginning, the cathedral was called State Cathedral due to source of the construction cost.
In 1895, two bell towers were added to the cathedral, each 57.6 m high with six bronze bells with the total weight of 28.85 metric tonnes. The crosses were installed on the top of each tower of 3.5 m high, 2 m wide, 600 kg in weight. The total height of the cathedral to the top of the Cross is 60.5 m.
In the flower garden in front of the cathedral, there was a bronze statue of Pigneau de Behaine (also called Bishop of Adran) leading Prince Cảnh, the son of Emperor Gia Long by his right hand. The statue was made in France. In 1945, the statue was removed, but the foundation remains.
In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon parish, attended the Holy Mother Congress held in Vatican and ordered a Peaceful Notre Dame statue made with granite in Rome. When the statue arrived in Saigon on 16 February 1959, Bishop Pham Van Thien held a ceremony to install the statue on the empty base and presented the title of "Regina Pacis". It was the same bishop who wrote the prayers "Notre-Dame bless the peace to Vietnam". The next day, Cardinal Aganianian came from Rome to chair the closing ceremony of the Holy Mother Congress and solemnly chaired the ceremony for the statue, thus the cathedral was then-on called Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Asian temples offer some great photography opportunities as they are usually full of ornate and highly decorative walls, pillars and floors. However as these temples are usually very poorly lit, sometimes only using candles, it poses an enormous challenge to be able to capture the dynamic range of the scene. This is where HDR photography really comes into its own as shown in this shot in a dark interior of a temple in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Los Arcos Dry Amontillado

i-Phone Friday today highlights a great use for the i-Phone when out at a restaurant and you want to remember the wine you ordered and enjoyed .... easiest thing is to take a quick picture with your i-Phone. This image was post-processed in the wonderful i-Phone app "100 Cameras" from Trey Ratcliff.

The image shot here was a great sherry we had during our visit to Spain .... well worth remembering!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rustic Fornication

This rustic and rough wood carving was seen in a hilltribe camp in Northern Thailand close to Chiang Rai. I'm not sure what message the artist was trying to convey but it certainly demonstrates the potency of these tribal people of north Thailand!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Japanese Shinto Prayer Bells

Prayer Bells, Kyoto, Japan by HighlanderImages

The practices involved in Shinto prayer are heavily influenced by Buddhism; Japanese Buddhism has also been strongly influenced by Shinto in turn. The most common and basic form of devotion involves throwing a coin, or several, into a collection box, ringing a bell, clapping one's hands, and contemplating one's wish or prayer silently. The bell and hand clapping are meant to wake up or attract the attention of the kami of the shrine, so that one's prayer may be heard.
Shinto prayers quite frequently consist of wishes or favors asked of the kami, rather than lengthy praises or devotions. Unlike in certain other faiths, it is not considered irregular or inappropriate to ask favors of the kami in this way, and indeed many shrines are associated with particular favors, such as success on exams.
In addition, one may write one's wish on a small wooden tablet, called an ema, and leave it hanging at the shrine, where the kami can read it. If the wish is granted, one may return to the shrine to leave another ema as an act of thanksgiving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Portrait of an Orphan

I met this young orphan boy at the perimeter of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I think his vacant and blank gaze tells us a lot about the difficult life he leads.

Orphans are found in many of the poor and underprivileged Third World countries but Cambodia has a significantly high proportion of orphans and abandoned children. This disproportionate number of orphaned children is a result of around thirty years of war, foreign occupation, civil war and the infamous Khmer Rouge Regime which had some dramatic and deadly effects on the people of Cambodia.  In addition to the brutal events during those dark days one of the current ongoing problems is the continuing effect of land-mines on victims and the healing and rehabilitation of Cambodians who have suffered through land-mine incidents. Cambodia is a country with one of the highest occurrences of death by land-mines. In addition, deadly diseases such as AIDS, coupled with the scarcity of health care resources, compounds these problems into leading causes of death which all contribute greatly to the increasing orphan population in Cambodia.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Death For Drug Traffickers

This sign painted on the walls of the infamous Pudu jail in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia very clearly points out the penalty in Malaysia for being caught in the trafficking of drugs.

Capital punishment in Malaysia applies to murder, drug trafficking, treason, and waging war against Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King). Recently, the law has been extended to include acts of terrorism. Any terrorists, and anyone who aids terrorists, financially or otherwise, are liable to face the death penalty.
Only High Courts have the jurisdiction to sentence someone to death. Juvenile cases involving the death penalty are heard in High Courts instead of the juvenile court where other juvenile cases are heard. Appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court are automatic. The last resort for the convicted is to plead pardon for clemency. Pardons or clemency are granted by the Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) of the state where the crime is committed or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong if the crime is committed in the Federal Territories or when involving members of the armed forces. Death sentences are carried out by hanging as provided in Section 281 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Pregnant women and children may not be sentenced to death.
Between 1970 and 2001, Malaysia executed 359 people. As of 2006, 159 people remain on the death row. Malaysia also uses Sharia law.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

St. Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin, New Zealand

We all know the famous St, Paul's Cathedral in London but here is another cathedral of the same name almost half way round the world in Dunedin, New Zealand.
St Paul's Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, in New Zealand and the seat of the Bishop of Dunedin. The Cathedral Church of St Paul occupies a site in the heart of The Octagon near the Dunedin Town Hall and hence Dunedin. The land for St Paul's Church was given by the sealer and whaler Johnny Jones of Waikouaiti.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Belgium Baroque Building

This is a wonderful example of the beautiful and ornate architecture that can be seen in Belgium. This old block of houses in Brussels exhibits some elaborate decoration as well as fairy-tale like windows and turrets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

i-Phone Friday

It's Friday and time for a new theme. I call it i-Phone Friday. The i-Phone camera produces a pretty decent 5 Mp image and now with the multitude of photo post-processing i-Phone apps it's amazing what you can produce from a very portable and easily accessible camera in your pocket. So I decided to start to hone my skills in the use of my i-Phone camera and the few photography apps I have just to see what we can come up with.

So starting today here is the first i-phone image .... a pretty mundane shot of a flower .... a little mini rose that is in my garden. The shot is post processed in a recent app released by Nik Software called SnapSeed which offers a multitude of image manipulation and filters.

So look out every Friday will now be i-Phone Friday ..... let's see how creative we can be .... hope my Canon 5D will not get too jealous!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Afternoon Nap

Young kids and older folks need their afternoon nap. These two kids at an orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia take the opportunity to drop out of class for a while for their much needed afternoon nap. No need to bother heading off to their bed when they can just lay out on the desk and catch their forty winks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Accordion Player, Paris

Accordion Player, Paris by HighlanderImages

This classic French accordion player was entertaining passers by in the streets of St. Germaine, Paris.

The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist.
It is played by compressing or expanding a bellows whilst pressing buttons or keys, causing valves, called pallets, to open, which allow air to flow across strips of brass or steel, called reeds, that vibrate to produce sound inside the body.
The instrument is sometimes considered a one-man-band as it needs no accompanying instrument. The performer normally plays the melody on buttons or keys on the right-hand manual, and theaccompaniment, consisting of bass and pre-set chord buttons, on the left-hand manual.
The accordion is often used in folk music in Europe, North America and South America. It is commonly associated with busking. Some popular music acts also make use of the instrument. Additionally, the accordion is sometimes used in both solo and orchestra performances of classical music.
The oldest name for this group of instruments is actually harmonika, from the Greek harmonikos, meaning harmonic, musical. Today, native versions of the name accordion are more common. These names are a reference to the type of accordion patented by Cyrill Demian, which concerned "automatically coupled chords on the bass side.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Graveyard Greenery

This old Christian graveyard in the center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia lies overgrown and run down providing an atmospheric environment of tropical crumbling, decay. It's fascinating to explore these types of abandoned urban areas which provide opportunities for HDR photography. 
Urban exploration
 (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. It may also be referred to as "draining" (when exploring drains) "urban spelunking", "urban caving", or "building hacking". 
The nature of this activity presents various risks, including both physical danger and the possibility of arrest and punishment. Many, but not all, of the activities associated with urban exploration could be considered trespassing or other violations of local or regional laws, including—but not limited to—invasion of privacy and certain broadly-interpreted anti-terrorism laws.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Post 9/11 there was a great deal of emotion with many people in a state of shock, not only in New York City but worldwide. As people came to grips with this tragic event and the shocking death toll there was a feeling of unity and hope which emerged especially for those New Yorkers who lived and worked in the area of the World Trade Centre.
Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. It is the "feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" or the act of "look[ing] forward to with desire and reasonable confidence" or "feel[ing] that something desired may happen". Other definitions are "to cherish a desire with anticipation"; "to desire with expectation of obtainment"; or "to expect with confidence". In the English language the word can be used as either a noun or a verb, although hope as a concept has a similar meaning in either use.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - Bell of Hope

This post is in memory of the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Centre disaster which occurred 10 years ago today. 

The Bell of Hope is situated in St. Paul's churchyard in New York right next to where the World Trade Center used to sit. The Lord Mayor of the City of London presented this bronze bell to New Yorkers on the first-year anniversary of September 11th. Cast by the same foundry as the Liberty Bell and London's Big Ben, it conveys the empathy and solidarity of the people of London with the people of New York. The Reverend Dr. Daniel Paul Matthews, Rector of Trinity Church, rang the bell on the second anniversary. The Bell of Hope is permanently located in St. Paul's churchyard.
The rear of St. Paul's Chapel faces Church Street, opposite the east side of the World Trade Center site. After the attack on September 11, 2001, which led to the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, St. Paul's Chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers at the WTC site.
For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others. Massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and musicians also tended to their needs. The church survived without even a broken window. Church history declares it was spared by a miracle sycamore on the northwest corner of the property that was hit by debris. The tree's root has been preserved in a bronze memorial by sculptor Steve Tobin. While the church's organ was badly damaged by smoke and dirt, the organ has been refurbished and is in use again.
The fence around the church grounds became the main spot for visitors to place impromptu memorials to the event. After it became filled with flowers, photos, teddy bears, and other paraphernalia, chapel officials decided to erect a number of panels on which visitors could add to the memorial. Estimating that only 15 would be needed in total, they eventually required 400.
The Chapel is now a popular tourist destination since it still keeps many of the memorial banners around the sanctuary and has an extensive audio video history of the event. There are a number of exhibits in the Chapel. The first one when entering is "Healing Hearts and Minds", which consists of a policeman's uniform covered with police and firefighter patches sent from all over the country, including Iowa, West Virginia, California, etc. The most visible is the "Thread Project", which consists of several banners, each of a different color, and woven from different locations from around the globe, hung from the upper level over the pews.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Scottish Highlands

The Highlands is a historic region of Scotland. The area is often, incorrectly, prefixed with "Scottish" since there is no need to qualify the term. It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots (English) replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands. The term is also used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands. The Scottish Gaelic name for the highlands, A' Ghàidhealtachd, literally means 'the place of the Gaels' and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands.
The area is sparsely populated, with many mountain ranges dominating the region, and includes the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Before the 19th century the Highlands was home to a much larger population, but due to a combination of factors including the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the infamous Highland Clearances, and mass migration to urban areas during the Industrial Revolution, the area is now one of the most sparsely populated in Europe. The average population density in the Highlands and Islands is lower than that of Sweden, Norway, Papua New Guinea and Argentina.
The Highland Council is the administrative body for much of the Highlands, with its administrative centre at Inverness. However the Highlands also includes parts of the council areas of Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Moray, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling. Although the Isle of Arran administratively belongs to North Ayrshire, its northern part is generally regarded as part of the Highlands.

Friday, September 09, 2011

School Lessons in Cambodia

The look of concentration can be clearly seen on this girl's face as she sits in a school class at her orphanage in Siem Reap. This is actually the same little girl that was in the photograph in my earlier blog this week entitled Joy & Happiness .... she is obviously not quite so joyous or happy about this classroom lesson compared the the dance class!!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sea of Orange - Koninginnedag

This is a panorama shot at one of the major canals in Amsterdam, Holland during the Queen's Day crazy celebrations. 
Koninginnedag or Queen's Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 30 April (the 29th if the 30th falls on a Sunday), Koninginnedag is Queen Beatrix's official birthday. Though Queen Beatrix was born on 31 January, the holiday is observed on 30 April as it was the birthday of her mother and predecessor, Juliana. Many of the traditional activities are held outside, and observing the holiday in April makes suitable weather more likely.
The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess's Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, heiress to the Dutch throne. On her accession, the holiday acquired its present name, Koninginnedag. When held on 31 August the holiday was the final day of school summer vacation, leading to its popularity among children. Following the accession of Wilhelmina's daughter Queen Juliana in 1948, the holiday was moved to her birthday. Her daughter, Beatrix retained the celebration on 30 April after she took the throne in 1980. Beatrix altered her mother's custom of receiving a floral parade near a royal palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in the festivities. In 2009, the Queen was carrying out this custom in the town of Apeldoorn when a car was driven into a crowd surrounding the royal family's vehicle; seven people in the crowd were killed, and the car's driver also died soon afterwards.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Shinkansen train, Japan by HighlanderImages

The Shinkansen bullet train in Japan is now many years old but is still an impressive piece of technology and continues to provide an impressive fast service between major cities in Japan. Starting with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964, the network has expanded to currently consist of 2,387.7 km (1,483.6 mi) of lines with maximum speeds of 240–300 km/h (149–186 mph), 283.5 km (176.2 mi) of Mini-shinkansen with a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph) and 10.3 km (6.4 mi) of spur lines with Shinkansen services. The network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, with construction of a link to the northern island of Hokkaido underway and plans to increase speeds on the Tōhoku Shinkansen up to 320 km/h (199 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets in 2003.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Joy & Happiness

This little girl was participating in a traditional Cambodian dance class at the Sunrise Children's Village Orphange in Siem Reap. Some of the children played traditional instruments while others were coached in the traditional dance movements. You can certainly see the joy and happiness in her face as she danced.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Iron Horseman

In the centre of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain stands the statue of Philip III on horseback. The statue dates from 1616 and was placed in the square in 1847 after the wedding celebrations of Isabel II, during which the last bull run was held in the square. The Plaza Mayor is a huge square constructed in 1617. It has been pedestrianised and can be entered by any one of nine arches. The famous square has played host to bullfights, fiestas and even public executions. From time to time, events such as concerts and fiestas are still staged here. The square contains 136 houses with 437 balconies from which people used to watch the events held here. The square has always been a popular meeting place, especially on Sundays when the many bars and restaurants complement the weekly stamp and coin fair.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Saint Vitus' Cathedral, Prague Castle, Prague

Saint Vitus' Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague, and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. The full name of the cathedral is St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, this cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in the country.

The current cathedral is the third of a series of religious buildings at the site, all dedicated to St. Vitus. The first church was an early romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in 925. This patron saint was chosen because Wenceslaus had acquired a holy relic — the arm of St. Vitus — from Emperor Henry I. It is also possible that Wenceslaus, wanting to convert his subjects to Christianity more easily, chose a saint whose name sounds very much like the name of Slavic solar deity Svantevit. Two religious populations, the increasing Christian and decreasing pagan community, lived simultaneously in Prague castle at least until the 11th century.
In the year 1060, as the bishopric of Prague was founded, prince Spytihněv II embarked on building a more spacious church, as it became clear the existing rotunda was too small to accommodate the faithful. A much larger and more representative romanesque basilica was built in its spot. Though still not completely reconstructed, most experts agree it was a triple-aisled basilica with two choirs and a pair of towers connected to the western transept. The design of the cathedral nods to Romanesque architecture of the Holy Roman Empire, most notably to the abbey church in Hildesheim and the Speyer Cathedral. The southern apse of the rotunda was incorporated into the eastern transept of the new church because it housed the tomb of St. Wenceslaus, who had by now become the patron saint of the Czech princes. A bishop's mansion was also built south of the new church, and was considerably enlarged and extended in the mid 12th-century.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Astronomical Clock in Prague

The Prague Astronomical Clock or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the only one still working.

The oldest part of the Orloj, the mechanical clock and astronomical dial, dates back to 1410 when it was made by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel, the latter a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University.
Later, presumably around 1490, the calendar dial was added and clock facade decorated with gothic sculptures.
In 1552 it was repaired by Jan Taborský, clock-master of Orloj, who also wrote a report on the clock where he mentioned Hanuš as maker of the clock.
The Orloj stopped working many times in the centuries after 1552, and was repaired many times. In the 17th century moving statues were added, and figures of the Apostles were added after major repair in 1865-1866.
The Orloj suffered heavy damage on May 7 and especially May 8, 1945, during the Prague Uprising, when Germans directed incendiary fire from several armored vehicles and an anti-aircraft gun to the south-west side of the Old Town Square in an effort to silence the provocative broadcasting initiated by the National Committee on May 5. The hall and nearby buildings burned along with the wooden sculptures on the Orloj and the calendar dial face made by Josef Mánes. The machinery was repaired, the wooden Apostles restored by Vojtěch Sucharda, and the Orloj started working again in 1948, but only after significant effort.
Formerly, it was believed that the Orloj was constructed in 1490 by clockmaster Jan Růže (also called Hanuš); this is now known to be a historical mistake. A legend, recounted by Alois Jirásek, has it that the clockmaker Hanuš was blinded on the order of the Prague Councillors so that he could not repeat his work; in turn, he broke down the clock, and no one was able to repair it for the next hundred years.
According to local legend the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Thai Dancers

Dance in Thailand is the main dramatic art form of Thailand. Thai dance, like many forms of traditional Asian dance, can be divided into two major categories that correspond roughly to the high art (classical dance) and low art (folk dance) distinction.

Although the traditional performing arts are not as vibrant as they once were, suffering inroads by western entertainments and generally changing tastes, Thai dance drama is not extinct. What survives displays the elegance of an art form refined over centuries and supported by regal patronage.
The Thais reputedly first acquired a dance troupe when, in AD 1431, they conquered the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor and took as part of their spoils an entire corps de ballet. Dancers whose performances had once been seen as a symbolic link between nature, earth and the realm of the gods.
Aside from folk and regional dances (southern Thailand's Indian-influenced manohra dance, for example), the two major forms of Thai classical dance drama are khon and lakon nai. In the beginning both were exclusively court entertainments and it was not until much later that a popular style of dance theater, Likay, evolved as a diversion for the common folk who had no access to royal performances.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Organ Grinder

Organ Grinder at Place du Tertre, Paris by HighlanderImages

The organ grinder was a musical novelty street performer of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, and refers to the operator of a street organ. This lady in Place du Tertre, Montmarte, Paris was entertaining the customers at the side street cafes with her organ mounted on a scooter.
Period literature often represents the grinder as a gentleman of ill repute or as an unfortunate representative of the lower classes. Newspaper reporters would sometimes describe them cynically or jocularly as minor extortionists who were paid to keep silent, given the repetitious nature of the music. Later depictions would stress the romantic or picturesque aspects of the activity. Whereas some organ grinders were itinerants or vagabonds, many were recent immigrants who chose to be street performers in order to support their families. Those who actually owned their barrel organs were more likely to take care of them and pursue the "profession" more seriously. A few organ grinders still remain, perhaps most famously Joe Bush in the United States.
Exceptionally, the grinder could be a woman, or small child, cranking away on a smaller organ or on a large organ mounted on a pushcart that was sometimes pulled by a donkey. More often than not the grinder was a man, bearing a medium sized barrel organ held in front of him and supported by a hinged or removable wooden stick or leg that was strapped to the back of the organ. The strap around his neck would balance the organ, leaving one hand free to turn the crank and the other to steady the organ. A tin cup on top of the organ or in the hand of a companion (or an animal) was used to solicit payments for his performance. There was an endless variation in the size of the organ. The size varied from a small organ with only 20 notes weighing only 18 pounds to a huge barrel organ with hundreds of pipes weighing several hundred pounds. Larger organs were usually mounted on a cart, although organ grinders were known to carry an instrument weighing over 100 pounds. The most elaborate organs could even have mechanical figures or automata mounted on top of or in the front of the case.