Chinese New Year

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It’s the start of the Chinese New Year tomorrow, the year of the rat. A street calligrapher gave me these as I passed by last month. I was curious to know what she was writing. I can’t quite remember what it says, but it was wishing me well in some form for the coming year, I think. The top image is the traditional CNY red envelope, in which money is put and handed to family and friends. Hope someone can read it anyway, Google translator was no help, not surprisingly.

Opium web

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This canvas ‘The Opium Parallax’ (2.24m x 4.0m) by Burmese artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe was shown at the 2019 Asia Art Biennial in Taichung. It charts, in a loose way, the opium trade’s connections between governments, diplomats, countries, gangs and other parties. I found it quite fascinating.

Especially as ‘Mr. Nice’ (Howard Marks), a notorious British drug smuggler (albeit with cannabis), began his career when he was handed a diplomatic bag containing drugs. I read somewhere that he was just helping out a student friend who was ill at the time and unable to collect the parcel. This led to a lifelong career and many years in prison.

Among interesting names mentioned on the canvas are: Mafia, French connection, Legs Diamond, European diplomats, banking sector, jade & gem dealers, Playboy, Golden Triangle, secret society, casino, human trafficking, to name just a few. Make of it what you will. It certainly had me absorbed for longer than almost any other works of art.

Temples & towers

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Where has all the craftsmanship and artistry gone?

Pictured, part of a temple roof in Taichung and beyond Hotel One, a modern day skyscraper. The turquoise-tinted all-glass Hotel One is certainly an impressive sight and easy on the eye, mainly due to its curved shape and breathtaking height. However the detailed coloured carvings of the low wooden temple could be viewed for hours whereas a brief glance at the skyscraper and you’ve seen it all, just about.

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Just one of the many intricately carved sculptures found on temples.

Many skyscrapers are simple geometric forms clad in mirror glass, which if nothing else has one advantage of reflecting the sky, making them semi invisible and slightly less oppressive. However the majority of office and apartment blocks are just plain grey rectangular concrete boxes with uniform square windows placed at regular intervals with about as much aesthetic appeal as a brick. That’s it! I would hazard a guess that covers around 80% of high-rise buildings worldwide.

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A tall tower block rises from the city almost obliterating the view.
Skyscraper mirror glass reflects concrete apartment blocks a common sight in every city.

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I wonder how this affects our moods as we wander through sun-shaded cities of grey concrete and glass, looking for some greenery and a place to sit, rest and chat.

 

Liu Chuang – Bitcoin video

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Today I watched one of the most fascinating art films I have ever seen. At the National Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung there is an exhibition ‘The strangers from beyond the mountain and the sea’ for the 2019 Asian Art Biennial. A 40 minute film by Liu Chuang was shown split on three wide screens in a small theatre with seating for about 10 people. The film explores China’s history, Bitcoin, iPhone technology, the environment and other interesting interconnected subjects. A review can be seen here:  

Art review Asia.

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Taichung postcards

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Taichung’s old main station lit up in all its Christmas glory.

Initially Taichung can seem chaotic and impossible to navigate, especially for non Chinese speakers. However, well designed tourist maps are available from the main station and buses are frequent, well marked and easy to use, especially if you buy a swipe card (Easycard), which is essential for frequent trips. (MRT is still under construction). Most bus trips inside the city are free so that even getting the wrong one costs nothing. A shuttle bus service does a round trip stopping at many of the main places and it is useful if you have a particular place in mind.

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Taichung park lake and fountains

However, from the old/new main station with a bit of zigzagging it is possible to take in many of Taichung’s main attractions by walking or riding through the greenest parts of the city. First stop after the station is Taichung park, which was created by the Japanese during their administration of the city. It’s a great place to relax with a real zen atmosphere, spectacular trees and a boating lake full of koi carp and turtles.

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A typical restaurant street at night between the park and the canal walkway.

From there head west along the canal walkway to the National Taiwan museum of fine arts. Then a long narrow park with sculptures (Calligraphy greenway) takes you north again until you reach a vast green area overlooked by the impressive Hotel One.

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A typical ‘Calligraphy Greenway’ path where a variety of sculptures can be found.

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Hotel One towers over the a park where families spend weekends picnicking and playing.

Continue northwards staying on the parkway strip and eventually you will reach the National museum of natural science and finally the botanical gardens.

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There is a beautiful tiled pathway leading to the National museum of Natural Science with inlaid animals and plants depicting a timeline from prehistoric to contemporary times. Unfortunately they can only be viewed at ground level, which is a pity as some are so big, particularly the larger dinosaurs that they are difficult to see properly.

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Finally you will reach the botanical gardens with a tropical glass house and waterfall.

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Taiwan aboriginal village

A day out to educate myself. At least that was my plan anyway…

In the heart of Taiwan not far from Sun Moon Lake is a place called the ‘Formosan aboriginal culture village’. A 90 minute bus ride from Taichung took me there for just a few Euros.

On the way, as we headed inland towards the mountains, it was clear to see the ever present pollution hanging over Taichung, something that is easy to miss while in the city as the air does not seem to be that polluted. The cloud of purple grey pollution hovering over a city on a clear blue sky day was something I first noticed in Munich, Germany back in the 1980s.

On arrival my destination turned out to be more of an amusement park with touches of Disney world. At first I was shocked and a little disappointed as fun fairs were never really my thing even when I was younger. However it was quite spectacular.

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Observation tower, cable car and crystal clear water park with huge slide (not shown)

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I discovered, via a well designed map, that the aboriginal village and museum were situated high above the amusement park, which required a fairly long walk and ascent of several hundred meters.

A labyrinth of paths climbed the hillside but many of the direct routes had been blocked due to maintenance and so I was forced to zigzag my way up in search of the museum.

Lets face it, museums and art galleries are hard on the legs and feet at the best of times but having to walk and climb several kilometres (slight exaggeration) to reach this one did nothing to help my growing disappointment. However once there it was well worth the effort, particularly the museum artefacts and the reconstructed wooden homes of the aboriginals.

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A peaceful retreat away from the amusement park noise and screams of excitement.

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It was fascinating standing inside the wooden huts imagining how they had once lived and for a moment, despite the simplicity of the structures, I felt slightly envious that they could have been so close to nature as the structures were mostly open to the elements. No triple glazed sealed boxes here. Just the sounds of the forest. It really made me wonder about much of present day living, especially in cities with the ever growing tower blocks.

The whole experience of the Formosan aboriginal culture village took most of the day and on my return through the amusement park it certainly looked great fun if you are young and into that sort of thing. The water ride looked particularly spectacular and there was also an observation tower, cable car to Sun Moon Lake and a monorail. What more could a family want for a day out.

Well, it was a good job I did not Google research it beforehand as I may have not gone and then I would have missed a treat.

2020 vision

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/shader-test.blend

As I prepare to create my 2020 calendar, I discover I am lost for ideas. I want to move away from the wildlife theme for next year but struggle to find a new theme.

I was considering landscape textures and moving more towards an abstract arty theme but have yet to create anything that looks halfway interesting. So this afternoon, just for fun, I tried texture painting some landscape photos onto spheres in Blender 2.8.

If nothing else it helped me better understand how this function works. So here’s a small sample of some of the spheres, which used among others, snow, rice field and bird photos. Would it make a calendar? Probably not, but hopefully it may lead to some other ideas.

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/shader-test.blend

 

 

Democracy … rambles

BanksyPhoto: Unknown, image Banksy

Britain, the heart of democracy? … don’t make me laugh!

First, let’s take a look at a few things, while we ponder the present confusion surrounding us.

I am sick of hearing the phrase, ‘this is what the British people voted for’ in regard to Brexit from the likes of Boris and Mrs. May clan.

Almost half the country did not vote for Brexit. It has since been alleged that the Brexit parties lied, misused EU funds and broke electoral law… and many of those who did vote for Brexit feel they made a mistake and would now vote Remain.

There are millions of Britons living in EU countries who are directly affected by Brexit yet have no say in the matter because having lived outside the UK for more than 15 years they have no right to vote. Meanwhile, Americans along with many other civilized countries have a lifelong right to vote in their own political systems regardless of where they live. Who came up with this arbitrary 15 year cut off for British expatriates and WHY ?

Had those Britons voted it may well have changed the referendum result.

As for Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia that is a whole other can of worms.

How did a buffoon like Boris become prime minister … he went to public school and can quote Latin, which he thinks makes him look cool and intelligent. Dream on Boris.

Women in Britain only finally got equal rights to vote alongside men in 1928! Long after the British empire had dominated the world and the industrial revolution had already been going for two centuries.

The majority of conservative MPs now governing the country are privately educated, went to Eton, Oxford or Cambridge and live in a world remote from your average Briton.

The UK is the only undisputed democracy in Europe to use ‘First past the post’, others use systems that better reflect the overall proportion of votes cast, rather than who wins in each constituency. This is why the UK Green party has only one MP and the German Green party has 21 MPs!

As to the Banksy artwork. I was very impressed that he could paint so well. I have long been a fan of his work but saw him more as a political spray can artist. This painting, if it really is from him, puts him in a whole new category of genius.

 

 

Reflections

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A visit to Karlsruhe for their spectacular ‘Schlosslichtspiele’. This is an annual light festival event lasting for several weeks from August till September. Many artists and companies are involved in putting together a light show projected onto the impressive baroque facade of the palace.

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The setting was perfect with a warm summer evening and clear skies. The event is free and there was plenty of space in the enormous grounds to find an ideal viewing spot.

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After a weekend in Karlsruhe it was back to Pforzheim and time to reflect on how different the two towns are.

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Pforzheim suffered greatly during WW2 and I took time out to visit the memorial, which stands high on a hill where the debris from bombed building was taken and now over looks the town.

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It’s a bit of a slog to get up to but well worth it just for the views over Pforzheim and Baden Wuerttemberg. The shiny metallic memorial sculptures reminded me of a mix between 911 and 2001 and below this plaque explains the event:

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Which roughly translated reads as follows:

Debris hill 23rd February 1945

This artificial hill was created on the Wallberg (hill) from the debris of Pforzheim.

It reminds us of the horrors of WW2, particularly on the 23rd February 1945. In less than 20 minutes the town was completely devastated. More than 18,000 people died.

The total war – started by the National Socialists, Germany – aimed now also at our own town.

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A beautiful mix of wildflowers alongside the Enz riverbanks.

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A duck on the River Nagold, which also flows through Pforzheim. The two rivers intersect in the town centre and this made it attractive to the Romans who first settled here. In fact for all I know I would not be surprised if the duck was standing on old Roman ruins.