Welcome to my Blog - Ruud Leeuw

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Welcome to my Blog!The lion roars!!!
I hope to share here my irrepressible thoughts on news, music, books, arts and such like. In general these will be items, events and issues which I feel have no place on my website (which focusses on aviation history and my travel photography).

The item immediately below this would be the latest posting.

Anybody, providing he knows how to be amusing, has the right to talk about himself. - Charles Baudelaire
Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived) ¬Bishop George Berkeley

Not even I understand everything I am ¬Aurelius Augustinus of Hippo

In 2013 I started a series of photo albums on Blurb.com, named '36Exp' (a subject adressed in 36 exposures, a reference to the exposures on most common rolls of 35 mm film: 12, 24 & 36.).
The books can be ordered directly from the Blurb.com website or Amazon.




Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Mystery Road, series 1 (2018)

Set in the fictional town of Patterson, 'Mystery Road' opens with a vehicle abandoned on a cattle station. Its two occupants seem to have disappeared into the burning hot desert.
The series is an adaptation of a 2013 film.

Detective Jay Swan (a role by Aaron Pedersen) is assigned to investigate this mysterious disappearance on the Ballantyne station. The rancher appears to be the brother of senior police sergeant Emma James (Judy Davis).
Everyone Swan talks to in this small outback community has something to hide and fractures show along (family) relations.

Jay's investigation also uncovers a past injustice, a rape for which someone endured a 10 year prison sentence and that man, Larry, is about to return to Patterson.
Emma's brother is set to sell the ranch to the Aboriginal community, but he hasn't told anyone about the single source of water, an aquiver, being depleted. Emma is dead against the sale, esspecially in these circumstances.
The fabric of the whole community as about to unwind.

Detective Swan is looked upon with distrust by about everyone in Patterson: being of indigenous origin the Aboriginal community thinks he's turned more sensitive to  the white man's interests, the local police force object to Jay creating a lot of local unrest and his lack of communication, while the rancher fears Jay's meddling could spoil the sale and then his daughter (and later his wife) join him with family problems.

Inspite of their differences, Jay and Emma work together to bring guilty parties to justice, not only in the disappearances of the two youngsters but also drugs trafficking and the rape 10 years ago.

The setting in the Australian outback is simply wonderful, with many aerial shots over an endless landscape lined with dust blown dirt roads.

An excellent series!

en.wikipedia.org:_Mystery_Road  (2013 film)



Ordeal by Innocence, an Agatha Christy mystery

Ordeal by Innocence

Agatha Christie remains a fine source for films and tv drama. Like her 1958 novel 'Ordeal by Innocence',
a three epsiode (2018) tv adaptation I recently watched.
'Ordeal by Innocence' has an impressive all-star ensemble cast, including Bill Nighy.

The story begins in 1954 when wealthy philanthropist Rachel Argyll is murdered at her family estate, Sunny Point. Her adopted son Jack Argyll, a young delinquent, is arrested for her murder. He vehemently protests his innocence.

Eighteen months later, Dr Arthur Calgary, a scientist, walks onto the velvety lawns of Sunny Point claiming to have just returned from an expedition to the Arctic. Even more extraordinary is his claim to hold the alibi that can prove Jack’s innocence. But Jack died in prison before the case could come to trial, and the Argyll family is reluctant to dig up the secrets of the past.

Rachel’s widower Leo is about to remarry his secretary Gwenda and none of Rachel’s other adopted children Mary, Mickey, Tina or Hester, nor longstanding housekeeper Kirsten, is willing to reopen that most horrendous chapter of their lives.

However, the shattering implications of Calgary’s story are too big to avoid; if he is telling the truth then the wrong person was arrested for Rachel’s murder.
And if Jack was not the killer, then it must have been somebody else at Sunny Point.

Fascinating characters and a spinning plot!





Inspector Imanishi Investigates by S. Matsumoto
Inspector Imanishi Investigates by S. Matsumoto
Original title: Suna no Utsuwa; translation by Beth Cary

Seichō Matsumoto (b.21Dec1909 – d.04Aug1992) was a Japanese writer.
His works created a new tradition of Japanese crime fiction. Dispensing with formulaic plot devices such as puzzles, Seichō incorporated elements of human psychology and ordinary life. In particular, his works often reflect a wider social context and postwar nihilism that expanded the scope and further darkened the atmosphere of the genre.
In this book we see (a.o.) leprosy, WW2 bombing and shame for ancestry as ingredients of the story. Technology plays a part in the murders committed; that is of the subsequent murders, as the original murder that starts the investigation is an unidentified man brutally battered to death and found on the tracks of a rail yard.

I bought this book when I was travelling in Japan recently. While the book was written (or at least published) in 1961, I noticed many of the mores and habits of Japanese society in this book still valid: the modesty and apologizing, respects towards the elder and superiors, visiting shrines, travel by train.
The position of women in this book, be it 'hostesses' or the spouse, is quite shocking and I hope their position in society has seen some progress in modern Japan.

The self-educated Seichō did not see his first book in print until he was in his forties. He was a prolific author, he wrote until his death in 1992, producing in four decades more than 450 works.
Credited with popularizing the genre among readers in his country, Seichō became his nation's best-selling and highest earning author in the 1960s, awarded with several prizes.

His most acclaimed detective novels, including 'Ten to sen' (1958; Points and Lines, 1970); 'Suna no utsuwa' (1961; Inspector Imanishi Investigates, 1989) and 'Kiri no hata' (1961; Pro Bono, 2012), have been translated into a number of languages, including English.

In 1977, Seichō met author Ellery Queen when he visited Japan. In 1987, he was invited by French mystery writers to talk about his sense of mystery at Grenoble. Since then, his fiction has been compared with that of Georges Simenon.

Since his death from cancer at the age of 83, Seichō's popularity has grown internationally and he has achieved iconic status in Japanese culture.

I particularly enjoyed this book and the story of homicide detective Imanishi in 1960 Tokyo for a taste
of Japan. I did have some difficulty at first to remember the Japanese names and keep track of the plot.




Unforgotten, season 3

A body of a teenage girl, who went missing at the turn of the millennium, is found at a building site off the M1 motorway.
Four men celebrated the millenium change in a caravan park, three of them with their families. Those three all divorced their wifes a year later: did something happen that placed their relationships under strain, e.g. the (accidental) murder of young Haley?
These four men are placed under the spotlight when it is soon apparent that they all lied about events
that fateful night.

DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) learn that Hayley, who was strangled, was a twin with sister Jessica before they are given a lead linking Haley to a holiday let where she worked.
Tim, a GP, helps the fragile Chris when his old school-friend is burgled. Meanwhile Tim has been accused of misconduct towards a dementing patient.
Chris was divorced from his wife and lost his business due to accusations of being involved in child porno. He suffers from bipolar disorder and after years spent homeless he is getting back on his feet due to medication and a new realtionship, with Jamila.
Pete is down on his luck as a salesman and his relationship suffers because of his lies and accusation of fraud
James, a media celebrity, tries to understand why his son Elliot wants a sex change operation.

Cassie and Sunny begin interviewing the four male occupants of the holiday let whilst the rest of the team establish the time-lines and re-examine leads from the original investigation.
Tim seems to have a dark side, a temper and is a control freak.
Chris has no alibi for the New Year's Eve, having gone outside that evening in a state of upset. Did he meet Haley in the dark, raped the school girl and made her disappear?
Pete has a police record in Hong Kong, where he had a career at the time of events.
And James is hiding his son's movements and troubled past from the police inquiries.
It is obvious that all four men were lying initially and timelines, witness reports, dna and smart analyses unravel the situation around Haley's disappearance, rape and murder.
Esspecially the former partners, Mel ex wife by James and Derran, ex wife by Tim, are damning.

But there is drama surrounding Cassie and Sunny as well.
Cassie is concerned regarding the increasing absent mindedness of her father, who lives in with her. He
is also in a new relationship of which Cassie is not too keen. She looses sleep, the Haley case is effecting her emotionally and on top of that she loses the file of Pete, left in a coffee shop, which gets published on social media - with devastating consequences. She is on a collison course with a burn out, when a former police detective who was involved in the original inquiry for the disappearance of Haley develops romantic feelings for her. But Cassie can barely bring up the energy to conclude the police investigation.
A splendid role again by Nicola Walker, who has had such a glowing career since her role in Spooks!

Sunny has introduced his two teenage daughters to a woman he had feelings for; then his ex wife proposes to return to the family, for she misses the family... But Sunny manages to leave work at the workplace and becomes the stable factor next to Cassie in the murder investigation.

Until the last two episodes the viewer remains in suspense of the killer, wrong footed by new evidence and a baffling series of pathological lying.
Long mag Unforgotten run!



Great Hashima, photobook

Great Hashima, photobook

Great Hashima, photobook

Great Hashima, photobook

Great Hashima, photobook

Hashima a.k.a. Gunkanjima

In Tokyo, recently, I had trouble finding a suitable photobook, as a souvenir. Most, if not all, of the books were wrapped in plastic and I was unable to browse the content. And I needed to confirm that at least the captions were in English, so I was able to understand the context of the photos.

This book, The Great Hashima, ticked all the boxes.

I have a wish to visit Hashima Island, popular known these days as Gunkanjima, but was unable to include it in the itinerary recently.
The book is an excellent document in the establishment, living conditions and decline of Hashima Island.

Hashima Island (or simply 'Hashima', shima being the Japanese suffix for island) is commonly called Gunkanjima, meaning Battleship Island).
It is an abandoned island lying about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan.

These days the island's most notable features are its abandoned concrete buildings, undisturbed except by nature, and the surrounding sea wall. But it is also a reminder of its history as a site of forced labor prior to and during the Second World War, something I did not conclude from the book.
The reason of the establishment of a community were its undersea coal mines, established in 1887, which operated during the industrialization of Japan.
The island reached a peak population of 5.259 in 1959.

In 1974, with the coal reserves nearing depletion, the mine was closed and all of the residents departed soon after, leaving the island effectively abandoned for the following three decades.
Interest in the island re-emerged in the 2000s on account of its undisturbed historic ruins and it gradually became a tourist attraction. Travel to Hashima was re-opened to tourists on 22Apr2009.

Gunkanjima featured in the James '007' Bond movie 'Skyfall'. A very cool place where the villain had his
computer hacking headquarters.

The island was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015, as part of Japan's Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining.




Japan Journeys - woodblock printing

Japan Journeys - woodblock printing
An image often found in the public domain of Japan these days.

Japan Journeys - woodblock printing
Railway travel was our predominant way of travel in Japan earlier this month

Japan Journeys - woodblock printing
And the crowds have not diminished these days

Japan Journeys - woodblock printing
'The Japanese obsession with food and restaurants was as strong in the 19th century as it is today'.

Japan Journeys - woodblock printing
And indeed, the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa has changed little as we found out

In the 19th century Japan, after centuries of civil war and restrictions on individual mobility, travel became a part of popular leisure activity.

The origin of the travel boom in Japan is found in the pilgrimages to sacred sites that became widespread among all classes during the 19th century.
This coincided with a growing network of roads and relative safety for people to travel.

This book offers a colourful glimpse into the lifestyle of the Japanese in the 19th- and early 20th century. And particularly into a growing love for travel, through the predominant visual media of the time: woodblock prints.
The prints in this book are not only classical ukiyo-e ('pictures of the world', a term used to describe the hedonistic world of entertainment, often depicted in these prints from the late 17th- to the 19th century era but the book also include examples of shin hanga, new prints, created in the early 20th century.

The present occupation to document travel and Japanese scenery by photography stems from the 18th- and 19th century when commercial production of woodblock prints catered to the need to have a
tangible memory of their travels or a visualization of a desired future journey.

Two artists were esspecially successful in this are Katushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa
Hiroshige (1797-1858; see also further down).




Tony Joe White died (75)

Tony Joe White died (75)

So sad to learn today of the passing away of singersongwriter Tony Joe White on 24Oct18.

Decades ago I heard him on my carradio while driving home from work, but I had not heard the dj's intro and when I walked in at home I put the tv on silent, switched the radio on and explained to my stunned wife I just had to know who was singing... That was decades ago and forever a fan.
Watched him perform here in Holland a few times, including the Paradiso (Amsterdam,NL) and in Zoetermeer (2011; photos above).

"He wasn’t ill at all," his son, Jody White, told the Tennessean. "He just had a heart attack…there was
no pain or suffering."
The Louisiana native died at his home in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, outside of Nashville.

Swamp fox R.I.P.




Top of the Lke, season 2

It has been a few years since I watched the first series of Top of the Lake. That title had a bearing on the first series, not on the second series as far as I can tell. The sea features in it initially, when a body of a young Asean women washes ashore, stuffed in a suitcase.

We see Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) shortly after she joined the Sydney police force, four years after the 1st series ended. She is still struggling with her childhood traumas, when she was raped at the age of 16 by three men and left the resulting baby up for adoption days after having given birth.

Two plotlines are intertwined here, the first one is the suspected murder mystery of an Asean girl found on Bondi Beach, the second is Griffin getting reacquainted with her daughter and her foster parents.
Her daughter Mary is approaching her 18th birthday and is in a relation with a 42 year old man, much against the will of her parents; very conveniently, they live in Sydney.

I have two serious objections against this Top of the Lake 2nd season.
One is there are far too many hysterics, also having to do with my 2nd objection: too many caricatures.
The female police constable assigned as partner to Robin Griffin, besides being very tall (for which the male police officers refuse to work with her) is incapable of keeping her emotions under control and is both in a relation with her (married) superior as well as sleeping with Robin's brother.
The foster mother (a role by Nicole Kidman) has recently gone into a lesbian relationship.
Robin's daughter Mary is on the one side a very well educated young women, with grown up reasoning, but on the other side has a naive world view and child-like relation ship with Alexander 'Puss' Braun (David Dencik).

'Puss' is an East-German immigrant and former academic, who runs a brothel and is grooming underage girls, including Mary ('Baby').
The young Thai girls have entered Australia under a student visa, but work as prostitues and surrogate mothers for desperate Australians who can't have babies through a natural or a legal way.

All men here seem to share a misogynist view on women while the women here have frequent outbursts
of hysterics or (the Asean women) are involved in prostitution.
Too much 'effect', just not as good as.




Ara Güler dies

One of Turkey's best known photojournalists, Ara Guler, has passed away.
Nicknamed 'The Eye of Istanbul', Ara Guler chronicled the city with melancholic black-and-white pictures, taken mostly with a Leica camera.
He died in hospital in Istanbul on Wednesday 17Oct18 after suffering heart failure, Anadolu news agency said.

In 2012 I visited Istanbul for the first time, and of course I looked in on book stores and photo galleries on the photographers there.
I bought a book by photographer Ara Güler, photos taken during 1950s and 1960s. Truly excellent photography. Inspired me in no small means.
The website www.araguler.com.tr shows many photos from the book, and many more.

Some biography details from his website:
In 1958 when Time-Life, an American publication opened its Turkey branch, Ara Güler became its initial correspondent. Soon enough he started to get commissioned by other international magazines, such as Stern, Paris Match, and Sunday Times, London.
During this time, he met Marc Riboud and Henri Cartier-Bresson, who recruited him to join Magnum Photos. Ara was presented in 1961 British Photography Yearbook. In the same year, the American Society of Magazine Photographers made him the first Turkish photographer to become the member of this organization.
In 1960s, Ara’s work was used in books by notable authors as a means of illustration and were shown at different exhibitions around the world.
His images related to art and its history were featured in magazines, like Horizon, Life, Time and Newsweek.
Ara traveled for photography assignments to countries, such as Kenya, Borneo, New Guinea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and other cities of Turkey. In 1970s, he also took photography interviews with noteworthy artists and politicians, like Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, Ansel Adams, Pablo Picasso, Indira Gandhi, Winston Churchill and many others.

Ara's philosophy on photography is that he attaches great importance to the presence of humans in photography and considers himself as a visual historian. He does not value art in photography so he prefers photojournalism.

He has won several awards for his work, including Turkey's Photographer of the Century, 1999; Master of Leica, 1962; France's Légion d'honneur; Lifetime Achievement Lucie Award, 2009; and Turkey's Grand Prize of Culture and Arts, 2005.
In 2004, he was give honorary fellowship by Istanbul's Yıldız Technical University.

Ara also published his photographic books, such as Living in Turkey; Sinan: Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent; Ara Güler's Creative Americans; Ara Güler's Movie Directors; and Ara Güler: Photographs.

Ara Güler's Istanbul
I treasure this book, an inspiration for my own poor efforts in photography.




Hiroshige Utawa, postcards (Japanese edition)

Hiroshige Utawa, postcards (Japanese edition)
I could only make out the date, on the back: 1833.

Hiroshige Utawa, postcards (Japanese edition)

Hiroshige Utawa, postcards (Japanese edition)

Hiroshige Utawa, postcards (Japanese edition)

Bought recently as a souvenir, these postcards of vintage scenes of Japan. Colourful and remarkable, just as I found the country, travelling the tourist route through it for two weeks.

Publisher: Seigensha Art Publishing (May 25, 2011); 64 pages.



Robert Capa, Magnum Japan 2017 edition

Robert Capa, Magnum Japan 2017 edition

Robert Capa, Magnum Japan 2017 edition

Robert Capa, Magnum Japan 2017 edition

Robert Capa, Magnum Japan 2017 edition

It is probably not everybody's idea of a souvenir, a book in an unintelligible language namely Japanese...
But that is exactly what it is for me, one of my favourite iconic photographers captured in a Japanese edition (2017), bought in a bookstore in Tokyo recently.
The bookstore in question, though I visited several as I find it a great pleasure to browse, was the Maruzen Nihombashi bookstore. It wasn't the only book I bought here..

I noticed some photographs by Robert Capa I had not seen in the publications I have of his work. And I was excited to come across a photo of the 'Big Buddha' (Daibutsu) in the Todaiji Temple, Nara which he took in 1954 and which I visited 64 years later.

I am well pleased with this modest 10.5x15cm paperback, packing some 232 photographs (if I counted them correctly), well pleased indeed!

Robert Capa on Wikipedia



The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigudardottir

In 2016, when I found I had read, to my immense pleasure, all (translated) books by Arnaldur Indridason I thought to try another Icelandic author: Yrsa Sigurdardottir.
In that year I read both 'The Undesired' and 'Someone To Watch Over Me', and I knew I had found myself another great author for crime novels.

As in 'Someone To Watch Over Me', the main character in 'The Day Is Dark' is lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir. She is not some 'lone investigator' fighting crime against all odds, but rather a senior partner in a small and struggling law office. She does get a bit bored with her corporate law cases, but knows that those are her bread and butter while her partner has specialised in divorce cases.

When I came across this paperback in a bookshop in Tokyo I grabbed it without hesitation, as I rarely come across this author. However, I did note that I am reading the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series in the wrong order, having now read the #5 and #4 editions (in that order).
In this book Thora has been divorced, is in a relationship with a German named Matthew and is a young grandmother for her son has landed himself and his partner with child at a very young age.

Thóra accepts an invitation to flee her domestic situation and a boring workload, to go with her partner Matthew to Greenland in order to prepare a report about a geo-survey project gone all wrong with 3 disappearances at a remote location and the remainder of the workforce refusing to go back to Greenland for work unless these disappearances are resolved.
Thóra and Matthew represent the bank that underwrote the project and will have to pay out if the project fails.

Among those accompanying the duo on this trip are a physician, a company geologist, a computer specialist and Thóra’s own secretary, the annoying and petty minded Bella.
The native population, barely subsisting by hunting and fishing in the nearest village, refuse to cooperate, as they don't trust outsiders and the drilling, we find, was done at a forbidden place. A curse was released, hence the disappearance of the employees.

This Icelandic writer likes to mix mystic native traditions with murder. And indeed, we soon find we are dealing with murders when cut up body parts are found. But also a body is found in the camp's freezer and which is found to have been dead for many years while also no explanation is found for the disappearance of a young woman, Oddný Hildur, 6 months prior to the disappearance of two drillers.

The author has come up with some interesting characters and a fascinating glimpse of a world far removed from the experiences of most Western readers.
For some reason, possibly the Arctic setting and foul weather, this book reminded me of Alistair Maclean's novel Ice Station Zebra, which I read many, many years ago.




Strip Jack by Ian Rankin

This is the no.4 Inspector Rebus novel, published in 1992 and this paperback has been sitting in my bookshelf for ages, as I couldn't stay away from Rankin's newest publications since The Complaints.
But it felt good to get reacquainted with the earlier years of police DI John Rebus.

Strip Jack, as is written in Rankin's introduction in this book, was written in France by him, as he'd moved into a rundown French farmhouse with his wife in 1990.
Being away from Edinburgh he found he applied aspects of Scottishness stronger in this book, with certain words and phrasing. Something I enjoyed.

The book starts with a woman drowned, possibly murdered and the theft of rare books. But the actual story starts when respected MP Gregor Jack is caught in a police raid on an Edinburgh brothel and his flamboyant wife Elizabeth suddenly disappears. John Rebus smells a set-up.
Rebus feels sympathy for the politician and has 'informal' talks with friends of Gregor Jack. Meanwhile he finds the disappearance of Elizabeth a growing concern.
And when Elizabeth's badly beaten body is found, Rebus is up against his superiors who find it very welcome an convenient to drop the murders of both woman on someone who came forward with a confession.
Meanwhile we see John Rebus struggling with his relationship with Patience, who wants him to make up his mind whether to move in or move out.

As Rankin writes in his introduction, this books marked the ending of his 'apprenticeship', having written about a fictitious police station in a fictitious street, from now on he would make his books as authentic as possible. And as we now know this would culminate in 'Rebus Tours' through the streets of Edinburgh in the present day!
In spite of written over 2 decades ago I found this book immensely enjoyable.





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Created: 18-OCT-2018