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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

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.




Johan Cruijff
JOHAN CRUIJFF 25Apr1947 – 24Mar2016 R.I.P.

Even adults need heroes: I had one, now I have none.
Besides his obvious talent for sports (not just football, I am told), but also for his confidence, for going against the grain when he thought he was right, for his uniqueness (he added a complete chapter to the Dutch language and always made an impression with his philosophocal remarks).
A true legend.

Hendrik Johannes 'Johan' Cruijff, anglicised to Cruyff (b.25Apr1947 – d.24Mar2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Cruyff was one of the most famous exponents of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.
Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. At the 1974 finals he executed a feint that subsequently was named after him, the Cruyff Turn, a move widely replicated in the modern game.

At club level, Cruyff started his career at Ajax where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. In 1973 he moved to FC Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year.
After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later FC Barcelona; he remained an influential advisor to both clubs. His son Jordi also played football professionally.

Considered to be one of the most influential figures in football history, Cruyff's style of play and his football philosophy has influenced managers and players including Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Michael Laudrup, Arsène Wenger, Eric Cantona and Xavi.
Ajax and Barcelona are among the clubs that have developed youth academies based on Cruyff's coaching methods. Spanish football's successes at both club and international level during the years 2008 to 2012 have been cited by many as evidence of Cruyff's impact on contemporary football.




Robin de Puy - exhibition Fotomusem Den Haag

<leeg>Robin de Puy - 'If this is true… 10.000 km through the USA on a motorcycle'

Robin de Puy - 'If this is true… 10.000 km through the USA on a motorcycle'

01May2015: photographer Robin de Puy (28 years old) boards a plane to Las Vegas. A pair of jeans, 4 t-shirts and her camera is what her baggage mainly consists of: travelling light because she is about to tour the USA on a big motorcycle, in search of remarkable faces for her portrait portfolio.
The information is that she travels alone but I found that is partially correct: two of the 10 weeks she's followed for a documentary to be made, detailing her drive through a variety of sceneries, her search and meeting various people of whom she shoots portraits.
A courageous endeavour!

Today I enjoyed the photo exhibition, which is the result of this roadtrip, in Fotomuseum Den Haag. It is titled 'If this is true… 10.000 km through the USA on a motorcycle'.
While portrait photography is not something I have myself an ambition for, Robin certainly sets an example.
The people she takes pictures of is not a certain focus group, she avoids restrictions such as poverty, ages, race or colour - but rather finds the faces that mean something to her, open up to her.
Excellent work and I hope to view the documentary (also shown at the museum) in full at some point in time.
One additional remark, a compliment to the museum: not only photography is allowed but it also invites visitors to share & upload their impressions of the exhibitions to a Flickr group! Many museums abroad can take this example to heart!


More images taken by me of this exhibition on MyFlickr

Information copied from the museum:
If this is true… 8,000 Miles on a Motorcycle in the USA
Now until Jun-26-2016

"I do not want to go back – no launch parties or openings anymore. Wearing the same pair of jeans every day, feeling the sun on my skin and deciding whether I will stay or go on the day itself. I also love that everything I own here fits into two saddle bags and a backpack."

Robin de Puy's thoughts, jotted down in her journal on 4 June 2015. At that point, she had been in America for four weeks and covered 4908 km on her Harley-Davidson. Another six weeks and 5092 km to go. De Puy is a young portrait photographer in great demand. In 2014, she decided to go on the trip as a way of escaping the pressure of public expectations. Her success has a downside: the constant flood of commissions leaves her almost no time for autonomous work and she feared losing her sense of creative freedom. Her American road trip gave her the chance to go back to deciding for herself what to photograph. The result is a splendid series of portraits, now presented by the Hague Museum of Photography in the photographer's first ever solo show in a museum setting.

Robin de Puy is currently one of the Netherlands' most popular portrait photographers. Her career took off immediately after she graduated from the Fotoacademie. Her Girls in Prostitution series won her the Photo Academy Award for the best final year project of 2009. She went on to win the Dutch National Portrait Prize in 2013 for a photograph of fellow-photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn, who was seriously ill at the time. Both prizes were presented at ceremonies held in the Hague Museum of Photography, creating a particularly warm relationship between the photographer and the museum. The main clients commissioning De Puy's work are Dutch magazines LINDA and Vrij Nederland and the Volkskrant newspaper. She has recently added international clients like Bloomberg Businessweek and New York Magazine to her CV.

De Puy set off across America in May 2015. Her most vital equipment was in her saddlebags: a couple of lamps, two cameras and a lighting umbrella. She followed no set route but toured the country looking for distinctive faces to photograph – people of all ages and both sexes whom she just happened to meet on her travels. She specifically did not want to record social contrasts or the antithesis between urban America and the country's endless empty spaces. Robin de Puy's work adds a new dimension to the classic genre of the American Photographic Road Trip, most famously practised by people like Robert Frank, Jacob Holdt and Alec Soth: her sympathetic portraits could have been taken anywhere between Washington, Warsaw and Vladivostok.

Robin de Puy - photographer

The first week of Robin de Puy's trip was recorded by documentary filmmaker Simone de Vries (who had earlier made films about Rutger Hauer and Erik Kessels) and cameraman Maarten van Rossem. Halfway through the trip, they rejoined her for another week. The resulting documentary will be broadcast by AVROTROS on Sunday 20 March.

The exhibition comes with an English-language publication entitled If this is true, I'll never have to leave home again. The book will contain extracts from De Puy's journal and be designed by SYB. Issued by Belgian publishers Ludion, it will be priced at € 39.90.



Carolien Omidi was born in the Netherlands, studied and obtained a Dutch language degree, married a man from Iran and decided in 1999 to make a living in Iran with her family. She works as a correspondent for media such as Trouw (newspaper) and Dutch radio.

This book by her (10th in a series by correspondents about their experiences abroad) offers an insight in modern day Iran. The book was published in 2009, by KIT Publishers.

Omidi speaks Persian and is a woman; as such she has access to many places a (Western) man cannot go to including the simple fact that she can approach women.
Her Western background makes her a sort of third species in Iran, she is treated differently by a.o. Iranian (religious) authorities. With sensible diplomacy and empathy, respecting the many social protocols, she finds her subjects in many layers of the Iranian society.
Subjects adressed include religion, satellite discs, foreign influences, temporary marriages, nuclear power, Islam, illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and its consequences, influences from The West and its incomplete view on Iran, 2003 Bam earthquake, how young people meet and seek affection, homosexuality, influence of repression on art and book publishing, national pride of the Iranians... To name but a few!

The book gave me an excellent insight into the diversity of Iran as a nation and an increasing knowledge in the complexity of the islamic religion and its practicalities in society; it became very clear to me that the morals and these practicalities of Islam in Iran is or can be very different from countries such as Saudi Arabia.




Le Bureau des Légendes, French thiller tv-series (I)

Le Bureau des Légendes is a French thriller tv-series (10 episodes) about a special department within French state secret services; this department trains and deploys agents to find candidates who may become informants in their countries for the French intelligence services.
Within this secret service, known as DGSE (Direction générale de la Sécurité extérieure) this special branch trains, tests and deploys undercover agents.
Under carefully set up false identities they are sent to countries which have a hostile relation with France. These agents embed theirselves for years (2, 6, 10...) in a society and live their life under a false identity. They are called 'legendes': they play a temporary role as in a play.
These 'legendes' remain in contact with a fixed person at the DGSE, report on their progress, how their fake lifes develop and their mental state.

In the first series, which I recently watched, we see three major storylines develop: an agent returns after 6 years in Syria but instead of terminating his alias he uses it for unfinished business (unknown to the DGSE), an agent disappears after an arrest in Algeria and a young female agent is being trained & tested for deployment in Iran.

Guillaume Debailly (a role by Mathieu Kassovitz) returns from Syria where he was a French teacher; he got himself involved in a relationship with a married Syrian woman and meets her again in Paris: coincidence? She (Nadia El Mansour, played by Zineb Triki ) knows him as Laul Levébre, who is also known inside the DGSE by his alias 'Malotru' and she is interested in continueing their relationship; they have a few rendez-vous in a hotel, but 'Paul' ends it - again).
Malotru has feelings for her (also feelings of distrust), but this affair does not fit into his 'world of walls' and he creates, as Paul Lefebvre (a sin in the DGSE, when a role is terminated it is final), a 'legende' that should untangle his beloved Nadia from suspicion by Syrian agents. This results in Malotru seeking help from the Americans without authorization by the DGSE.
Sara Giraudeau plays a wonderful Marina Loiseau, who is being trained for a 'legende' in Iran.

There is a lot of distrust among the secret services and among colleagues within the DGSE. Their is an overwhelming dark sphere in this series, distrust & infighting. Few happy endings.
Possibly realistic, but entertaining at least!
And looking forward to the 2nd series!

fr.wikipedia.org/:_Le_Bureau_des_légendes (French)



Asa Larsson's The Black Path; crime fiction writing

Åsa Larsson is not a prolific writer, it seems; a pity as I thoroughly enjoy her writing!
Having read 'The Savage Altar' (a.k.a. 'Sun Storm', 2007) , I discussed 'Until Thy Wrath Be Past' (2011) in a 2013 blog.
This title 'The Black Path' has been waiting in a pile of books for me and perhaps I left it too late as I felt I should have an understanding of the crisis Rebecka Martinsson suffers from at the start of this book... But I did not remember the details.
I found that is because I read the books in the wrong order: I have only just started in 'The Blood Spilt' (2008) and I read 'Until Thy Wrath Be Past' in 2013 while that book was published after 'The Black Path'...

'The Black Path' was translated by Marlaine Delargy from Swedish to English, and while it was published in Sweden in 2006, it was published in the UK as late as 2012 (a year after 'Until Thy Wrath Be Past').
Here is a list of Asa Larsson's novels translated in English as found on Wikipedia-
2003 – Solstorm; English translation: Sun Storm (USA), The Savage Altar (UK), 2006
2004 – Det blod som spillts; English translation: The Blood Spilt, 2007
2006 – Svart stig; English translation: The Black Path, 2008
2008 – Till dess din vrede upphör; English translation: Until Thy Wrath be Past, 2011
2011 – Till offer åt Molok; English translation: The Second Deadly Sin, 2014

So what is 'The Black Path' about?
The opening page starts this way:
"Do you remember what happened?
Rebecka Martinsson saw her dead friend lying there on the gravel in Poikkijärvi. And the world shattered. And they had to hold onto her to stop her walking into the river.
This is the third book."

So I had no idea what this referred to, I did not remember... But it is the reason why we start with Martinsson being committed for treatment, a situation that brings us back to Sep.2003. She was treated in a hospital for facial injuries (a scar remains visible in her face) and is subsequently treated for psychic trauma.
The next chapter takes us forward by two years, into 2005, when a body is discovered on a frozen lake. This brings Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and her colleague Sven-Erik Stålnacke on the scene.

Rather peculiar to subtitle this book as 'A Rebecka Martinsson Investigation', while in this book we follow Anna-Maria more than Rebecka. But that is of little concern.

Martinsson is discharged from the psychiatric clinic and takes the train to Kiruna; she moves into her grandmother's house in Kurravaara, still on the road to recovery. Rebecka visits a therapist and takes medication. She finds solace in seclusion.
In 2004 she accepts a job, working for Chief Prosecutor Björnfot on company law cases; she works hard, accepts anything that is thrown at her, but she remains a loner, an outsider.

The murdered victim is identified as a woman who worked for an international mining firm with roots in Kiruna; she held a high position in that firm and a motive for her death is unclear. The company seems reluctant to coöperate and Martinsson is requested to make a profile of the company directors as well the company structure, its assets, etc.
And this is how Rebecka becomes involved in the investigation.
At this point the timeline for Martinsson and the murder investigation merge.

But for the other characters involved we see flashbacks to establish where they come from and how their lives interact. This concerns the owner of Kallis Mining Group, Mauri Kallis and his associates, brother and sister, Diddi & Inna (the murder victim) Wattrang.
But also Mauri's younger half-sister, Esther. She is introduced as late as page 152.
Mauri and Esther's upbringing is written about in detail over the various chapters, switiching from the present to their past. Mauri was to fend for himself at a very young age and grows up to be a loner and succeeds by his clinical skills for investments. While Esther grows up with a Sami background, shows herself to be a talented painter.
The title, The Black Path, stems from Esther's clairvoyant abilities.
I struggled with the Esther character, could have done without her entirely!

Mauri, Diddi and Inna are in a peculiar relationship; even so that the relationship interferes with their respectives marriages (Mauri & Ebba, Diddi & Ulrika). They all live on the Regla estate in Södermanland, owned by Mauri Kallis.
The Kallis Mining Group is in financial difficulties because of a failing investment in Uganda mining, caused by government corruption and rebel fighting. Mauri is seeking partners to adress the situation.

Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stålnacke continue to investigate the murder, but find themselves short on resources and Kallis Mining seems untouchable. A journalist thought to have hanged himself, is found to have been murdered and probably because he was investigating Kallis Mining.
Rebecka Martinsson helps the investigation where she can with research, but continues to fight her failing self-confidence and struggless on her complicated relationship with her former employer, Måns Wenngren.

So again I enjoyed Åsa Larsson's descriptions on the fierce cold and hostile environment in Scandinavia's Arctic North, enjoyed getting reacquainted with Rebecka Martinsson and Anna-Maria Melia, the murder plot was captivating, but I do think Larsson overreached herself with some characters, such as Esther. In this respect I would say 'less is more'.

Review by Irene Scobbie (Kallis written as Killis here)
en.wikipedia.org:_ Åsa_Larsson


JOSEPH FRANCIS CHARLES ROCK (1884 – 1962), Austrian-American explorer

Dr Joseph Rock, explorer

Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884 – 1962) was an Austrian-American explorer, geographer, linguist and botanist.
He was mentioned in a tv doumentary, his photography noted as inspirational for photographer and journalist Ruben Terlou (see item below).
A joy to explore: www.onshadow.com/galleries/rock.html




Ruben Terlou - Langs de Yangtze (VPRO doc)

For the past six weeks I thoroughly enjoyed this high quality documentary, in 6 weekly episodes broadcasted on tv by VPRO. The Dutch title translates as 'Along the Banks of the Yangtze' and sees presenter Ruben Terlou travelling the legendary Yangtze river up river, exploring the significance of the river and the changes made by the government on and along the Yangtze river (e.g. dams, roadworks, relocating people into newly-built towns for the specific purpose).

Terlou speaks mandarin fluently and his endearing style opens doors into the homes and lives. Ten years ago, at a very young age, Ruben Terlou tried to make it as a photographer (without a specific education into that respect) and reporter. During two years he tried very hard, studied the language, but he remained an outsider. He returned and decided on a change of career, got a degree in medicin. Until this opportunity to become part of a team presented itself, to make this documentary.

From Shanghai on the Chinese coast Ruben tracks, in six episodes, along the banks of the Yangtze, which is the longest river in China.
It is a travel in time, from the most affluent and modern cities of China he reaches an area that only now becomes properly connected with modern times by the roads that are being built. We get to see the complications of a nation reshaping itself, we see people get mangled in grand building schemes, the inequalities in opportunities for the rich and the poor, the abandoning of roots, culture and tradition, the difficulties between the old and the young, parents and their children.
The grand ambitions of The Chinese Dream, nothing can stand in the way for the directives from the Central Committee in Bejing. We see people in despair for jobs disappearing, their livelyhood under threat due to pollution, young people take to plastic surgery to increase their chances for a good marriage or a well paid job.

Ruben Terlou has a gentle way of interviewing the people he meets; he suspects that it is because he talks to these people like he did in his work as a doctor, with much empathy. He also has a very charming, radiant smile and the fact that he speaks the language seems to be a huge difference; he connects to people of his own age and never patronizes.
He read 80 books in preparation for this trip and documentary; one of the inspirations he mentions in the final episode is Dr Joseph Rock (adressed in the blog above this one).

Ruben Terlou (b. 17May1985) now describes himself as a photographer (besides China he visited Afghanistan), journalist and medical doctor (he acquired his medical degree at the University of Amsterdam).
'Along the Banks of the Yangtze, China through the eyes of photographer Ruben Terlou' is directed by Maaik Krijgsman, filmed by Joost van Herwijnen, edited by Pelle Asselbergs and produced by De Haaien. Ruben is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and got .

I can only hope this series will see a follow-up, preferably one of 10 or 12 episodes!

www.vpro.nl/yangtze/artikelen/achtergronden/Leestips-van-Ruben-Terlou.html (Dutch)



WERKLUST, photo expo, photography by Theo Baart

WERKLUST, photo expo, photography by Theo Baart

WERKLUST, photo expo, photography by Theo Baart

The first time I went to this gallery, DeMeerse in Hoofddorp; it has limited opening hours and the entrance is a bit hidden. But I managed to find it and glad I did.
'Werklust' is a project by Theo Baart and has been worked into a book (discussed in Blog 12Dec2015)
and this photo exposition.

It has been described by the author and photographer as a 'Biography of a landscape in use'. Where once crops and potatoes were grown, Theo Baart shows how that landscape was transformed to housing estates, industrial zones; hotels & high rising office buildings now dominate the skyline.
Roads were drawn in the landscape, showing the suburbian character of many housing estates and highways to connect the towns with large cities (Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague) and Mainport Schiphol, Amsterdam's International Airport.
Roads seems to be forever in (re)construction, pipelines and glassfibre material for fast internet are dug into the ground.
Theo Baart makes the connection how Holland has to grow to be able to compete in the global economy and how the landscape, our living and even character has to change with it.
People come to this exposition to see images of their (long lost) relatives, where farms succumbed to the urbanization and industrial priorities. The endless horizons have changed to a landscape limited by high rise buildings and state of the art wind mills.




Haiti, een ramp voor journalisten - door Hans Jaap Melissen

Since my son Alexander got a Master's degree for Journalism I have become interested in media, journalism & journalists. This book in Dutch (not sure if it was translated at some point) was written by a Dutch journalist, Hans Jaap Melissen with a special interest in Haïti.

Hans Jaap Melissen has travelled as a journalist for Dutch and international media through countries like Syria and Iraq, but he confesses to be 'in love' with Haïti and has visited that country many times over the years.
This book, of which the title would translate as 'Haïti, a disaster for journalists', was published by KIT Publishers in Dec.2010, starts with a text message appearing on his phone on 12Jan2010, inquiring if he already had departed for Haïti..? This referred to the major earthquake that had taken place there. And indeed he soon found himself packing his bags.

Melissen not only 'paints' a portret of Haïti and its habitants, how they deal with and bounce back from such disasters (e.g. earthquakes, hurricanes), but also how they remain dependent on help from NGO's: "keep sending money!"
Melissen finds himself doubting the figures the Haïtian government claims as a death toll for this particular disaster and goes out for a body count; he finds himself falling short, considerably, of the numbers quoted by the government and the NGO's. There is the obvious reason, as in any reporting of a major disaster, of rising casulaties to keep the public interested, raise interest for raising money and have NGO's able to deploy their resources to the area.
Melissen never reaches the point of disgust, but he refuses to go out for reporting on people showing worse and worse wounds, worse and worse sad tales ('lost all of my family, children, wife and grandchild'). He attempts to show reason in an objective style and illustrates the strength and resilience of the Haïtian people (one of his contacts and guide, Joe, does not talk about his wife and child lying dead under the rubble of their collapsed house, instead Joe is chatting up women while Hans is doing his rounds and interviews).
The book is well written, shows a journalist who knows what he is expected to deliver, but who remains critical on media hysteria (and the common fade-out, 10-14 day after the disaster) and quick & easy acceptance of data offered to the media, so easily passed around without proper fact checking.
A charming and informative book.

nl.wikipedia.org:_Hans_Jaap_Melissen (Dutch)



Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon (NY, 1937) is allegedly one of the most important American authors associated with 'counter culture'. In his books chaos reigns, with many plots & sidelines, characters and story lines.
So I got curous and bought myself this book.
I can only say it did not work for me; I gave up after 80 pages, mainly because I gave up on the main character (privat investigator Doc Sportello, a pot-smoking, 'groovy', jiving personality) and the style of writing dialogue (hip, but the humour was lost on me).
This author is not for me.




Arnaldur Indridason - Nachtstad

Over the years (2010Q2 - 2011Q2 - 2012Q2 - 2013Q2 - 2014Q1 - 2014Q4 - 2015Q1 - 2015Q3) I have frequently testified of my enthusiasm for this Icelandic writer. This time is no different!
A few months ago I was in an opportunity to 'fill in the blanks' on my bookshelf of books by Arnaldur Indriðason, when I found (Dutch) titles reprinted in 2014.
'Nachtstad' has as its original title ' Reykjavíkurnætur', published in 2012 (EN='Reykjavik Nights'). While I prefer to read in English, some had not yet been published in English.

Indridason's book are easy to read, he uses a clear style of writing and a moderate amount of people are involved in the story - which is good as the Icelandic names are not always easy to remember. The translation into Dutch was again by Adriaan Faber, who steers close to the style by Indriðason.
I was very pleased to find that this book was again an 'Erlendur Sveinsson'-story, but with a twist!
The past few books, in order of publication, had other characters in the lead starting with Erlendur's assistents and the previous one (discussed further down this page: 'Schemerspel' or 'Einvígið',) was about Marion Briem, Erlendur's predecessor and mentor; that book ends with Erlendur on his doorstep - Erlendur could be visiting for Briem's suggestion which we find on the final pages of this book!

'Reykjavik Nights' goes back to the days when Erlendur Sveinsson was still in uniform, mainly in nighthifts (hence the title). We see him patrolling the streets and going out on calls for bar fights, drunken driving, car accidents and reports of domestic violence.
So where does the murder mystery comes in? Well, actually the death of a homeless vagrant, named Hannibal, is not recognized as a murder but rather an accidental drowning 'while under the influence'. Even Erlendur accepts the sad tragedy as something that was at some point in some way inevitable.

Erlendur had met Hannibal while patrolling the streets of Reykjavik, took pity on him and sometimes let him sleep in an empty cell at the station when Hannibal was at his worst or roughed up. He suspected a tragedy was the cause of Hannibal's vagrant lifestyle and tries talking to him, but was kept at a distance and did not learn much.
But after a year of Hannibal's death a lingering uneasyness becomes a nagging doubt and Erlendur starts to make inquiries. For most of the book he makes very little headway, but does discover a link with the disappearance of a woman: an earring found at the location where Hannibal lived for a while and near to where he died in a shallow pool.

Erlendur has a fascination for people disappearing without trace, ever since as a child he lost his kid brother in a blizzard and who was also never found. Where, and why, did that woman go?
Policeman Sveinsson talks to people who knew Hannibal, who shared his lifestyle and picks up his courage to talk to Hannibal's sister Rebekka (and is vehemently told off by Hannibal's brother!) and we learn what tragedy caused Hannibal's alcohol addiction. Erlendur also talks to the husband of the woman who disappeared; and to her lover.
By the time Erlendur becomes convinced that he is actually investigating a murder (perhaps even a multiple murder), he struggles with the need to hand it over to the detectives. When he talks to the detective in charge he is not convinced by their commitment; he needs more..

Meanwhile we also learn about Erlendur's rather solitary lifestyle and his developing relationship with Haldóra, his future wife.




William Albert Allard, Five Decades (Photography)

William Albert Allard, Five Decades (Photography)

William Albert Allard (b.1937 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American documentary photographer; he refrs to himself as a street shooter.
He studied at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts and the University of Minnesota with the hope of becoming a writer. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1964 with a double major in journalism and photography.
When looking for work in the field of photojournalism, Allard met Robert Gilka, then National Geographic's director of photography, and was offered an internship.
Allard's photographs of the Amish for an article entitled 'Amish Folk: Plainest of Pennsylvania's Plain People' (1965) led to a full-time position with the magazine.
Some dissatisfaction about the lay-out of an article about Peru, in which he had put his whole heart in, plus some personal circumstance (divorce, family issues, developing a coke habit) brought things on the boil and he left National Geographic.
After a while he managed to land assignments with other publications, such as Life Magazine.

In 1982, Allard published his first book, 'Vanishing Breed', a photographic essay documenting the 'old American West'. In 1989 he published his second work, a retrospective of his work entitled 'The Photographic Essay'.
At some point Allard landed back in the fold with National Geographic again.
He has also worked as a contributor to Magnum Photos.

Allard has traveled the world on assignment since 1964. He has photographed (and sometimes written) stories on Mexico and Peru, on France and Spain, on India, and Nevada, Montana, Texas, and Minnesota.
His stories are about individuals and the roles they play in their societies: three Basque fishermen rapt by a poet's recitation, a beskirted Hutterite girl at the batter's plate, an Indian quarry worker who looks like she could support the Parthenon.
There are monumental cowboys: eating bread with syrup, drinking coffee or whiskey, riding the prairie.
He loves women too, like the veiled actress in Sicily, the Montana girl braiding her hair with shadows, or the shivering Delhi girl with her dog and shack.

Allard is one of the few photographers of his generation whose entire professional body of work is in color.

Images from the series 'Vanishing Breed' in this book were among my favourites.
The book (New York Graphic Society Books/Little Brown, 1981) was nominated for The American Book Award and received the Leica Medal of Excellence!
The series about the Untouchables in India is touching (pun intended!). 'Notes from Italy' was special to me too. Allard knows how to photograph women; that cover of Benedetta Buccellato is nothing short of stunning.
I could go on.
Every chapter (there are 12) start with a personal account by Allard on that particular assignment and chapter of his life. He does not spare himself.
A marvelous addition to my photobook collection and a fine example for my streetphotography interest and -activities.




American Neon Signs by Day & Night - Toon Michiels

American Neon Signs by Day & Night - Toon Michiels

Visited the Nederlands Fotomuseum today, for this exhibition of work by Toon Michiels.
Inspired by the colour photography by William Eggleston this Dutch photographer, who passed away in 2015, did a roadtrip in the 1970s documenting the colourful neon signs at restaurants & motels along American highways and main streets. Many of them were found in Las Vegas, a few in Reno(NV), Portland(OR) to name a few places.
I seem to recollect most images were taken in 1979.
The museum played typical roadmusic, perhaps favourites of Toon Michiel: Townes van Zandt and that roadsong of all roadsongs, Willie Nelson's 'On The Road Again'.
That strikes a vibe with me, a good vibe.
Really enjoyed this.

My images of this exhibition on Flickr.com

Some information on the book of the same title.
Though the original publication of 'American Neon Signs By Day & Night' took place in 1980 (1.000 copies) and a 2nd edition was published in 1982 (750 copies) the book with this exhibition is:
'American Neon Signs By Day & Night'
Toons, Michiels (Author)
Published by MARVAL (2015)
ISBN 10: 2862344508 ISBN 13: 9782862344508
The introductory essay by Erik Kessels is printed in both French as well as English.
The interview by First Gierstberg of Toon Michiels is also in French and English; I did not find a date of that interview.



A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

'A Question of Believe' by Donna Leon was published in 2009 and this Dutch edition titled 'Een Kwestie van Vertrouwen' was first published in 2010.

A number of books landed with me via an inheritance, several among them by Donna Leon. Her books are all located in Venice, Italy. Her main character Comissario Brunetti is different from most main characters in crime fiction: he has no traumas, is happily married with children, is not a loner in his investigations, does not drink excessively and while frustrated by his superiors knows when to stop frustrating them. And he reads Greek classics!

The attraction for me in these books is the way the author weaves in her observations of Italian governmental failings, the inefficiencies of departments, the influence of powerful people on society on how law & order is being applied.
In many ways the government of Italy has all the characteristics of a Third World country. Donna Leon adresses is again very well in this book. That and a very good plot.

The story.
Brunetti and his assistant Ispettore Vianello suffer in the summer heat, eat and drink in various local bars, and desperately look forward to their upcoming holidays in the cooler mountains (Brunetti) and the Croatian coast (Vianello). On their first day they are recalled for a murder.
Fontana, the clerk of the judge's court, is found battered to death. He was in a peculiar relation to a judge, who seemed to have a tactic of delaying certain court cases to serve certain 'relations'.
Vianello is worried about his aunt, who seems to be giving large sums of money from her family's business to Signor Gorini; he asks Brunetti for help in this as the aunt won't listen to reason. They find Gorini has a history of fraud in other cities; and they find him linked to the sister of the judge under scrutiny.
Brunetti finds a great help in Signorina Elettra, who manages to find a great deal of information through her computer and contacts; they conspire in taking the inquiries further, without the approval of the police superiors to avoid their 'sensitivities'.

I love all the well-observed details about human nature and daily life in Venice. I don't know if its portrayal of police investigations is realistic for Brunetti leaves office when he wants to drink coffee or enjoy lunch at home. But knowing Italy, I wouldn't be surprised.

Again a very enjoyable book by Donna Leon!




The Duke of Puddle Dock, in the footsteps of Stamford Raffles, by Nigel Barley

I recently read an extensive biography on Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles,'Raffles and the Golden Opportunity'; this caused me to browse my bookcase and do a reread on this book by Nigel Barley which I acquired and read in the 1990s.

In the annals of the British Empire, Raffles (1781-1826) is the rare figure whose life explains a great deal of the impetus behind imperialism. A proconsul of the East India Company, he founded Singapore, contested the Dutch for the domains of Java, Sumatra, and Malaysia, but was most distinguished as a dedicated naturalist and ethnographer.

Fascinated by his life, Barley resolved to retrace Raffles' journeys. He finds parallel characteristics between Raffles and 'Bung Karno' a.k.a. Sukarno, the first President of the Republic Indonesia; to illustrate this Barley quotes from various sources.
The author visits locations having to do with Raffles in Malaysia, Java, Sumatra, Bali, Singapore and London. More to the point, and very enjoyable, he asks around how people remember 'Raff-lesh' and the influence to this day of him and the British Empire / East India Company.
In the process we are entertained by Barley's wandering, his sometimes slightly impish observations and ways of 'help' received which on various occasions leads him astray.

Raffles had observed that 'education' in Malaysia concerned teachings of the Koran, not about the Malaysian history & culture; he preserved a treasure of Malaysian documents and writings, which alas perished in the fire and sinking of the ship 'Fame'; he also wrote History of Java and had that published upon his first return in London.
And he founded a university ('The Institution') in Singapore, shortly before his final return to England; alas it went in decay shortly after his departure, but the initiative found a rebirth in 'The Raffles Institution' - which Barley visits; he quotes the principal in saying: "Important? Of course he is important. Raffles belongs to us, he was unlike the common run of imperialists, so we preserve his name. Singapore was not grabbed, it was built by Raffles." Nuff said.

While I thought Victoria Glendinning's 'Raffles and the Golden Opportunity' an absolute thorough biography on Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, this book by Nigel Barley further brought home to me certain characteristics of Raffles and more importantly how he is perceived in modern times by the common
; not surprising since Nigel Barley is not per se a travel writer, but an anthropologist.

In conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book.




Arthus Leipzig -Next Stop New York

Arthus Leipzig -Next Stop New York

Arthur Leipzig (b.25Oct1918 - d.05Dec2014) was an American photographer who specialized in street photography and was known for his photographs of New York City.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918, Leipzig's journey into photography started in 1941 when he registered for a $6 class at New York's Photo League, brandishing a 9 x 12 Zeiss Ikon. He'd been forced to look for different work after he'd suffered a serious injury on his right hand while working in a glass factory; by his own declaration, having come across photography, it was love at first sight and he knew what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

The Photo League, begun in 1936, was made up of amateur and professional photographers dedicated to promoting social documentary photography as well as photography as an art form. Leipzig studied with Sid Grossman and Paul Strand and at that time was exposed to seminal figures such as Berenice Abbott and W. Eugene Smith.

By 1942 he became a staff photographer for the influential newspaper PM; a liberal publication that used photography in abundance on its pages and allowed its photographers free reign.
Leipzig shot thousands of rolls of film over five decades, among the most memorable are essays on children's street games, city workers atop the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island and V-Day.
He travelled the world on assignment, from the swamps of Florida to the Inuits in the Arctic regions of Canada, to the Sudan, documenting fishermen of New England and miners in West Virginia.
The essay about Arthur Leipzig's life and work is by Sylvia Böhmer. The images are all of North American exploits, mainly of New York.

Leipzig contributed his work to many publications including Fortune, Look, Parade, and Natural History.
In 2004, he won the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography.
Leipzig died in Sea Cliff,NY on 05Dec2014, aged 96.




XBraquo - French crime tv series

Braquo - French crime tv series


Until recently I had never heard of this French crime fiction series: Braquo. In a sale I came across the Series I & II in dvd boxsets and since I 'discovered' the French series 'The Spiral' (and a few others in the meantime) I have become quite a fan of French crime drama!
And Braquo did not disappoint either!

Braquo is a French crime drama television series created by Olivier Marchal and produced by Capa Drama with the participation of Canal+ in association with Marathon Group, Be-Films and RTBF.
It was first broadcast in France from 12 October to 02Nov2009.
The first season established a record audience for an original production of the channel, and has surpassed that of many U.S. productions broadcast by the network. The 2nd season started on Canal+ on 21Nov2011.
A third series has been broadcasted and shooting of a 4th series started on 02Feb2015 in Marseille.
The name of the series comes from the French word braquage, meaning armed robberies, particularly of banks.

The introduction states that crime had changed, becoming more organized and also more violent. And so has the police. Enter Eddy Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and his team: Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba), Théo Vachewski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and Roxanne Delgado (Karole Rocher).
The first episode starts with Eddy and some of his team breaking into a home, masked, and forcing a sollicitor under a gunpoint a name of a criminal they are after. Quite unorthodox. At the same time, their collegue Max interrogates a criminal and looses control of himself, wounding the man in interrogation. When Max the one under investigation, he breaks down and kills himself.
How's that for a start?

Eddy and his team will find means to an end, even if they have to act outside the law. They book results but their methods are an easy target for those jealous of the results. And indeed their methods, violence and deal making with known criminals, lead them into great difficulties.
While involved in crime fighting, they try avoid being taken down by Internal Affairs and 'political play', while dealing with conditions & deadlines set by crooks; their personal is under great strain too.

Braquo is action packed and develops at great speed; to me it came across as running down hill at increasing speed, trying to delay the inevitable fall.

Looking forward to getting my hands on series 3 and 4!

Braquo - French crime tv series
Left to right: Walter, Theo, Eddy (standing) and Roxane.

SEASON 3 is discussed on MyBlog 2017Q3
And see my update on Blog 2017Q4 for Season 4!




Hudge Dee by Robert van Gulik - The Lacquer Screen

Robert Hans van Gulik (b.09Aug1910 – d.24Sep1967) was a Dutch orientalist, diplomat, musician (of the guqin), and writer; as an author he is best known for the Judge Dee historical mysteries, the protagonist of which he borrowed from the 18th-century Chinese detective novel Dee Goong An.

He was born in the Netherlands, but from the age of three till twelve he lived in Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta), where he was tutored in Mandarin and other languages.
He joined the Dutch Foreign Service in 1935, his talents as a linguist well suited him for such a job and was stationed in various countries - mostly in East Asia (Japan and China).
He was in Tokyo when Japan declared war on the Netherlands in 1941, but he, along with the rest of the Allied diplomatic staff, was evacuated in 1942. He spent most of the rest of World War II as the secretary for the Dutch mission to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government in Chongqing. While in Chongqing, he married a Chinese woman, Shui Shifang, the daughter of a Qing dynasty Imperial mandarin and they had four children together.
It was also while in Chongqing that van Gulik discovered an antique book featuring detective Di Renjie, the character that would create the Judge Dee (Dutch: Rechter Tie) character.

After WW2 van Gulik returned to the Netherlands and his next employment was in Washington D.C. Blood being thicker than water, events saw him return to Japan in 1949. While in Tokyo, he published his first two books, one of which was a translation: "Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee", an 18th-century detective novel originally titled 'Dee Goong An' (the famous cases of Dee).
The English translation followed after the success of the Japanese and Chinese novels.

The main character of this book, Judge Dee, is based on the real statesman and detective Di Renjie, who lived in the 7th century, during the Tang Dynasty (AD 600–900), though in the novel itself elements of Ming Dynasty China (AD 1300–1600) were mixed in.
Van Gulik positioned Judge Dee on purpose in the Ming Dynasty since so little of the daily life during the Tang Dynasty survived history; van Gulik was an expert on the Ming Dynasty.
Thanks to his translation of this largely forgotten work, van Gulik became interested in Chinese detective fiction. To the translation he appended an essay on the genre in which he suggested that it was easy to imagine rewriting some of the old Chinese case histories with an eye toward modern readers.
Not long afterward he himself tried his hand at creating a detective story along these lines. This became the book The Chinese Maze Murders (completed around 1950).

The reviews were good, and van Gulik wrote two more books (The Chinese Bell Murders and The Chinese Lake Murders) over the next few years, also with an eye toward Japanese and then Chinese editions. Next, van Gulik found a publisher for English versions of the stories, and the first such version was published in 1957. Later books were written and published in English first; the translations came afterwards.
Van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries follow in the long tradition of Chinese detective fiction, intentionally preserving a number of key elements of that writing culture. Most notably, he had Judge Dee solve three different (and sometimes unrelated) cases in each book, a traditional device in Chinese mysteries.

The murder mystery in The Lacquer Screen concerns the murder of a magistrate's wife in Judge Dee's neighbouring district Wei-ping; Dee left his own district Foe-lai and travels incognito through the province of Shantoeng with only one of his helpers, Tsjiao Tai.
After having learned of the murder on Silver Lotus, Dee and Tsjiao-Tai pose as criminals and infiltrate in a local gang and take their investigations from there (on a street level as it were); during their investigations they come across a few other 'concerns', such as fraud, thievery, extortion and desertion.
Judge Dee manages to bring it all to light and combines justice with 'righteousness', though the last few pages add a twist to events finalized in the courtroom of Wei-ping.





Zilveren Camera 2015

Zilveren Camera 2015

Zilveren Camera 2015

The 'Zilveren Camera'  is a dutch photo competition. The award has been awarded since 1949 to the Dutch photographer deemed to have submitted the best news photograph (or series of photographs) in a particular year. It is a initiative of the 'Nederlandse Vereniging van Fotojournalisten' (NVF), a section of the 'Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten'.
In each category a first prize is awarded plus runners up two and three.

The ' Zilveren Camera 2015'  award for the best Press photo (or photo series) went to Eddy van Wessel; the presentation on 23Jan2015 made use of an online connection since EvW was at work abroad, in Syria.
The prize-winning series in the category 'Foreign News (Series)' is titled ' Sinjar, the fight for Highway 47'. The photos show how Iraqi-Kurdish peshmerga military forces and Yezidi fighters try to retake the Iraqi town of Sinjar from the Islamic State forces.
The Peshmerga and Yezidi's are supported by an American-led 'anti-ISIS-coalition', mainly from the air (bombardments and air strikes). Taking Highway 47 is vital to sabotage logistics of ISIS.

It takes a special kind of dedication to join these militants and document their fighting struggle, their dedication and hardship. Eddy van Wessel has that dedication, as he has shown many times during (a.o.) his exploits in Northern Iraq in 1996, and in subsequent years (with often recurring visits) in Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

The Yazidis (also Yezidis) are an ethno-religious group indigenous to the northern Mesopotamia whose syncretic and ancient religion Yazidism is not linked to Zoroastrianism, but linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions; however Yazidis form a distinct and independent religious community and have their own culture.
They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq.
In Armenia, the Yazidis are recognized as a distinct ethnic group and generally do not consider themselves to be Kurdish. The issue is controversial and highly politicized. However, The Yazidis' cultural practices are observably Kurdish, and almost all speak Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish).
In Sinjar, west of Mosul, many townspeople are members of the Yazidi minority.
On 13Nov15, a day after launching a major second offensive, Kurdish forces and Yazidi militias backed by US airstrikes, entered the city and fully regained its control from ISIS. Following the recapture, in nearby hamlet of Solagh, east of Sinjar city, Kurdish forces found a mass grave with the remains of at least 78 Yazidi women from Kocho village believed to be executed by ISIL militants.

Peshmerga are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Peshmerga means 'one who confronts death' or 'one who faces death. 'Pesh' means to stand in front of (loosely translated as to confront or face) while 'merga' means death.
The overall formal head of the peshmerga is the President of Iraqi Kurdistan. The peshmerga force itself is largely divided and controlled separately by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, although both pledge allegiance to the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternatively translated as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a Salafi jihadist militant group that follows an Islamic fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. The group is also known as Daesh.
The group has referred to itself as the Islamic State (IS) since it proclaimed a worldwide caliphate in June 2014.



Theo Baart: Eiland 7

Theo Baart: Eiland 7

It is nice to see someone shares an interest, Theo Baart shares my interest in documenting the changes of the urban environment and has taken it to a professional level as his book 'Werklust' showed (discussed Blog 12Dec2015).
An earlier book of him showed a slightly different angle, in as much that he traces the start of a suburban area and its earliest development. That is what his book 'Eiland 7' (EN=Island 7) is all about.

Theo Baart moved in Dec.2004 into a newly built house, in an area that had onlyt recently been used to grow potatoes.
He traces the start of this newly developed housing estate. He found that the city council started its own ground speculation by noticing how a new government directive, to move people from overcrowded cities out to a better living environment, warranted land purchases from farmers for future housing projects.

So Theo Baart interviews people from the city council involved in the early land purchases (often using 'go betweens' so as not to show their purpose), the various architects and project developers, as well as the buyers - Theo Baart's neighbours.
We see that from a daring design, due to recession, the houses and its immediate environment see changes implemented due to new economic perspectives; city executives retire ot are replaced, project developers struggle against the economic tides and binding contracts while architects complain about what was realized from their initial design.

It is a complicated 'play' in its entirety, one which continues for years; it sees some people of the first buyers satisfied while others are disappointed. Its result is clearly recognizable as 'suburbia'. Most of the players move on to another such project.




Among the Celestials, China in early photographs

Among the Celestials, China in early photographs

'Among the Celestials, subtitled 'China in Early Photographs' is a photobook accompanying an exhibition of the same name (which I visited in the 'Rijksmuseum' last year).
For the past months the book was never far, taking an occasional browse after having read the essay 'China through the lens' by Régine Thiriez with great interest.
Last year I bought two other photobooks on the subject of China: Willem Wernsen's street photography in modern China (discussed 2015Q2) and Francis Stafford's historic images (discussed on this blog, see 03JAN2016). I have travelled in China on a mere three occasions and my son travelled China extensively last year - that country never ceases to fascinate me.

Photography was brought to China by westerners, reaching China during the First Opium War of 1839-1842. Until 1900 the medium spread mostly according to Western presence, driven by a curiosity for a very old culture with well-established traditions and modes of representations.
From 1842 onwards, successive foreign treaties 'opened' a growing number of ports scattered along the Chinese coast and the Yangste river to international trade. Photography followed and soon Canton, Hong Kong and Shanghai developed as important centres for trade as well as photography.
In 1901 a new treaty brought greater freedom of movement.

The earliest known/identified photographs of China are by Jules Itier, a French amateur daguerreotypist and date from 1844-1845.
The first newspaper advertisement by a commercial photographer, a Mr West, was published in March 1845.
Louis Legrand opened a photo studio in 1857 in Shanghai. In 1860 a photo studio was opened in Hong Kong (by Weed & Howards, soon replaced by Miller).
Peking was a special case: as it remained closed to foreign trade until 1900, its foreign residents were diplomats and missionaries; so most local early photography was done by amateur and commercial visitors. The first photo studio did not open until 1892.

Photographic processes developed over time: from single-copy daguerreotype available in 1839 to glass plates in the mid-1850s. The long exposure times created ghosts in the images, people or animals' movements recorded as a blur during the exposure time.
When after that time portable cameras and roll film negatives became available this greatly stimulated amateur photographers.
Westerners did not stay long and after mid-1870s photography was mostly done by Chinese, but they kept photographing from a Western point of view. Nineteenth-century photographs depict views of architecture and landscape, local types and customs (e.g. weddings, customs, barbers, criminals) and -importantly- portraiture.

I love the streetscenes (with 'ghosts' and all), customs like 'peep shows' and criminals awaiting justice (including beheadings) and for the portraiture I am fascinated by the women's 'bound feet'.
'Among the Celestials' assembles 250 fascinating images of China in a beautfully produced 'coffee-table'-size book.
A prized possession for my bookcase!



Real Winters expo in Teylers Museum,Haarlem

Real Winters expo in Teylers,Haarlem

Real Winters expo in Teylers,Haarlem

'Real Winters, winter paintings from 19th century' - exhibition in Teylers Museum (Haarlem,NL).
The Golden Age was the heyday of the winter landscape. Then followed a period of decline, but after around 1800 the genre enjoyed a revival, with artists such as Schelfhout, Jongkind, Mauve, and Breitner.
In this exhibition, winter landscapes and skating scenes are combined in an overview that spans the long period from approximately 1780 to 1915 (from Van Strij to Mankes).

The exhibition did not stop at a collection of masterpieces, but also pointed out how these paintings illustrate the effect of the cold on people (e.g. widespread unemployment, the harsh cold penetrating insufficient clothing and houses) and trade (e.g. when ships were stranded in frozen ice flows) and the dangers of ice accumulation against dykes, causing them to break and resulting in widespread flooding of the lowlands.
Winter was likely to be a season of hardship and danger to lives, livelihood, house and possessions such as cattle. But it could be fun too: speed skating came about and other arrangements of entertainment brought people from all walks of life on the ice.
Something I also learned: the last ice age ended as recent as 1850! See wikipedia.org_Little_Ice_Age
Beautiful painting, drawings, sketches and indeed, very educational too!

More of my images taken of this exhibition: MyFlickr.com



Lee van Cleef, Captain Apache

Lee van Cleef, actor

Recently I watched a rerun of Captain Apache, starring Lee van Cleef (and Carroll Baker and Stuart Whitman). I grew up in a village with a very modest cinema: one room at the local library. Films passed here only after they had made the complete tour along cinemas and film houses, we were the very last to see them.
I loved WWII films and westerns. Lee van Cleef fitted the bill, I enjoyed the films and always felt he was a bit underrated; though I have to admit, watching that rerun of Captain Apache, it made me realize we all gain a little bit more insight if we put sufficient years behind us!

The plot of this western: A Native American born US Army officer, Captain Apache, investigating a murder, uncovers a presidential assassination plot. It manages an ending that perhaps one might not have expected.

Clarence Leroy 'Lee' Van Cleef, Jr. (b.09Jan1925 – d.06Dec1989) was an American actor who appeared mostly in Westerns and action films.
His sharp features and piercing eyes led to him being cast as a villain in scores of films, such as Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, prior to becoming a leading man.
Besides performing in films (1952-1989), he also played a part in many tv series (1952-1984).
Despite suffering from heart disease from the late 1970s and having a pacemaker installed in the early 1980s, Van Cleef continued to work in films until his death on 16Dec89, at the age of 64.
He collapsed in his home in Oxnard,CA from a heart attack; throat cancer was listed as a secondary cause of death.




Standing in another man's grave, by Ian Rankin

I was quite pleased with Malcolm Fox, Rankin's new lead character as witnessed by the two previous crime novels by Ian Rankin. Then, all of a sudden Rebus is back! Actually they both meet in this book, John Rebus, retired and now working cold cases, and Malcolm Fox, who is determined to make a case for Complaints about Rebus' iffy dealings.

And it is good to have John Rebus back on the case, with all his faults and contacts 'on the other side of the legal fence'; he's even become, grudgingly, drinking buddies with Cafferty!
But let's start with something on the title and the story.

In 'Standing in Another Man's Grave' refers to Rebus mishearing the title of a song by (late) Scottish singer Jackie Leven, 'another man's rain'; the book is dedicated to Leven, which is a nice gesture. Rankin's fans know about his love, and signature, for quoting bands and album titles, this book is no different.
John Rebus is working in a civilian capacity on cold cases, still smoking, still drinking, still the anarchist towards police management (he keeps stealing the stapler of his boss).
A woman arrives at the reception, asking for someone who has long been retired. Without much enthusiasm Rebus hears her case. Her daughter vanished in 1999 from Aviemore, on the A9, and she believes the disappearance of a string of other young women from towns near the road over the next 12 years are linked.

Rebus decides to read the case files, particularly as an ongoing missing person case also has links to the same road...
And what do you know? His old protégée, Siobhan Clarke, is on that job, and the pair embark on an investigation which will see Rebus travel the length of the A9, its "thousands upon thousands of inland acres of wilderness", in his battered old Saab, running into buried secrets and old nemeses, enraging his superiors and crossing line after line in his quest for justice.
So in character with Rebus to keep a 'Police Official Business' marker for his own use and abuse; and ponder on the phrasing of Official Police Business.

More than once Sibhan is warned, and realizes, that the working methods and ethics of John Rebus has no place in the modern police force. Malcolm Fox is aware of Rebus intention to apply for a job in the force again, faces him directly and warns Clarke that Rebus will take her down with him.
Rebus does not remedy his reputation by striking upo communication with another local villain, Frank Hammell - who has a relation with a woman who also lost her daughter to the 'A9 murder'.
"You were a bastard back then too. Just not so fat and old," he is told by one former convict he helped to put away. "Hard to disagree," Rebus replies.

So the location for this crime story is not Edinburgh, but rather the A9. Rankin often describes the A9 and its tribulations, roadworks & heavy traffic, that I am quite resolved to drive it myself one day.
Starting out from Edinburgh, via Auchterarder, Bridge of Earn, Perth, Pitlochry, perhaps a stop at the Dalwhinnie distillery, Aviemore, Inverness, Alness (with the Dalmore distillery), Glen Morangie (another distillery), before crossing the Dornoth Firth bridge a stop at Edderton, onto Dunbeath, turning west at Thurso, via Scrabster following the coastline and ending at Durness. Perhaps have a look at Cape Wrath. Like Rebus did.
Mustn't forget to have a look at Chanonry Point, a little north of Inverness on the A382, look for dolphins; like John Rebus and Siobhan Clarke did.
I think this book has me inspired to go and look for myself on that road north high up into Scotland.


Ian Rankin, author



Acquitted - dvd boxset crime drama

Acquitted - Norwegian crime drama (dvd)

Very much enjoyed this series 'Acquitted' in the past two weeks; ten episodes of excellent Norwegian crime drama: 'Frikjent'.
Aksel Borgen returns to his Norwegian home town for his Chinese employer to take charge of a takeover of a local, struggling company 'Solar Tec'.
We soon learn that Aksel (played by Nicolai Cleve Broch) was charged, 18 years old, with the killing of his girlfriend Karina Hansteen, convicted but acquitted after testimony by a girl who kept a crush on him after they'd been sweethearts at school but was replaced by Karina.
Acquitted but not cleared, because the killer was never found and the whole town held Aksel responsible.
Upon his return after twenty years Aksel finds the town has not forgotten. It even brings great doubts to himself because he was very drunk that evening and cannot remember anything from that fateful evening, except that he did have words with Karina...

Aksel finds his mother and brother have grave doubts about his innocence too and this obviously strains the relationship. Younger brother Erik has given up his dream to become a ski instructor on Chamonix, seeing the need to take care of his mother after Aksle fled. Erik is in a difficult relationship with a girl in town.
The company 'Solar Tec' is in trouble after a major client folded; a Chinese company moves in with a takeover bid, sending Aksel as their representative. Aksel is soon accused of making false promises to get people to sign the new contracts; he also finds his former highschool sweetheart, Tonje (played by Synnøve Macody Lund), as the leading scientist here and they pick up where they left off (it is kept vagued whether Tonje's clearing testimony plays an emotional role, a reason for their new romance).
This obviously does not go down well with Aksel's wife, Angeline (played by the beautiful Elaine Tan), who decided to fly to Lifjord in Norway accompanied by their son Tim during his school holiday's.
And Aksel never told Angeline, nor Tim or anyone else in his new life, of his tainted past...

When 'Solar Tec' headed for the fall, it was lead by Eva Hansteen (a fantastic role by Lena Endre), the mother of the girl that got killed. She nursed an obsession for Aksel being guilty of the murder committed and steps down as CEO of 'Solar Tec', unable to accept Aksel in the firm.
Her son Lars takes over, but he is weak and struggles with every situation that requires taking sides.
Lars was married to Karina and we see son Tim striking up a relationship with their daughter.
Eva's husband William was the one who brought Solar Tec's situation to the attention of Aksel, without telling his wife.
Lars' new wife runs a hotel but in a small community, facing bankruptcy of its main employer and industry, her business is in dire straights and she looks for financial support in the Hansteen family. She has a strained relationship with Eva, for not understanding why Eva does all possible to bring Aksel to trial again after so many years.
Plenty of turmoil in the Hansteen family!

Another Scandinavian drama series that comes well recommended.

www.filmdomein.nl/recensie/acquitted/ (Dutch)



Relics of the Cold War by Martin Roemers, photography

Relics of the Cold War by Martin Roemers, photography

The Cold War is over — yet signs of it still exist. For 40 years the Iron Curtain divided the countries of Europe into East and West. The arms race was unleashed, nuclear fallout shelters were constructed, and everyone braced for the worst.
Martin Roemers has spent 10 years in search of the traces of this period, traveling through the countries of former enemies on both sides of the line. He explored and documented underground tunnels, abandoned system control centers, former barracks, rotting tanks and damaged monuments.
His photographs, which are presented here with essays by H.J.A. Hofland and Nadine Barth, are an impressive document of this era of hostility.

I love this sort of documentary photography!




Cartoon by Joep Betram "Merkel - Wir Schaffen Das'

Published in De Groene Amsterdam 14Jan2016.



A referendum on the approval of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine will be held in the Netherlands on 06Apr2016.
The referendum question will be: "Are you for or against the Approval Act of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine?"

The decision to hold a referendum was made after more than 427.000 valid requests were received within 6 weeks, more than the required number of 300.000 requests. The referendum will be suspensory and non-binding however...

I don't really know enough of all ins-and-outs of this matter, but I do know it is a chance to speak up. My consideration to help Ukraine against Russia is too simplified for this matter, and it is outweighed by my negative sentiments: the Dutch government (Rutte et all) steamrolling over negative sentiments with his mantra & lies: "the agreement is good for Dutch export, is good for jobs and the people".
There has been no positive results to the Dutch economy, in terms of jobs of wealth, by increased exports. The dealings with Ukraine are financial ones and only a few Dutch lawyers and financial experts will benefit, while inviting all sorts of immoral -perhaps even illegal- financial schemes and money flows.

Rutte is lying through his teeth when he is saying "this agreement is beneficial to the people of Holland".
Rutte is feeding his ego while getting cosy with EU leaders, trying to avoid a NO, NEIN, NON from voters.
The EU should first get its 'own house' in order: there is still no answer to the tidal flow and assimilation of immigrants, Poland is shedding its democracy, too many countries in the EU (Greece, Italy, Spain, Framce) have not recovered from the Global Economic Crisis and there is the Brexit to consider.
While further abroad the Chinese economy is floundering and the Arab world continues to be in turmoil, effecting European economies and security.
At home the economy may be on the mend, the austerity measures have weakened the patient and too many people are without a job, too many expecting to be out of a job.

So I will be voting NO!




RAFFLES, by Victoria Glendinning

It must have been at least 20 years ago since I read 'Raffles, The Duke of Puddle Dock' (by Nigel Barley, review further up this page) and remember little of it now. This book by Victoria Glendinning, 'Raffles and the Golden Opportunity 1781-1826' I received recently as a gift and is a splendid read.

Thomas Stamford Raffles was born the son of an impoverished sea captain in 1781, he worked his way up in the East India Company to become a minor official on the island of Penang - an overseas career provided opportunities for wealth and a career; he became Governor of Java (until it was relinquished to the Dutch; his first wife Olivia died in Java), returned to Britain, went back to Sumatra in 1818 again for the East India Company (to Bencoolen, accompanied by his 2nd wife Sophia), founded Singapore in 1819, died in Britain in 1826 (aged 45) due to a brain haemorrhage - having suffered from ill health (and mercury treatments) most of his life.

The author, Victoria Glendinning, is unusual in including almost as much about Raffles's relatives and friends as about him. These people were crucial to his career as well as to his happiness; especially his two wives, the vivacious Olivia, who died in 1814, and then the strong and resourceful Sophia, who bore him his children, and fanned his reputation, and her own, after Raffles's death.
There are of course also mention of the people that were important to Raffles' career, those who favoured him and those who opposed him. For Sir Stamford Raffles was ambitious, pushy, exceeded his authority, went against directives of the East India Company (Raffles made good use of the difficult communications, it could take months before a reply from London was received), favoured people and put others at a disadvantage if needed and was not in doubt about his role in history.

Thomas Stamford Raffles was a utopian imperalist, linguist, naturalist, collector as well as a troublesome visionary. When he returned to London the first time, he brought an enormous collection of documents, drawings, (stuffed) animals, artifacts, etc., with him. He proceeded to write and publish The History of Java.
When he returned to Sumatra, with good hopes to secure wealth and reputation for his retirement, he did again amass a great collection; but it all perished in the flames when the ship they had boarded for their return to England caught fire; they barely managed to get back to land with nothing left except the clothes they wore!
Also three children (of four) died at a young age during their stay in Sumatra; the book certainly has enough drama to make it a complete read, not merely a dry historic account.
A truly excellent biography.

en.wikipedia.org: Stamford_Raffles
Review of this book on The Guardian



Dana Lixenberg - Imperial Courts 1993-2015
China (see info below) is portrayed her on the right

Dana Lixenberg - Imperial Courts 1993-2015

Dana Lixenberg - Imperial Courts 1993-2015

Earlier this week I visited Huis Marseille Photography Museum in Amsterdam, a.o. for this exhibition of work by Dana Lixenberg.
Dana Lixenberg (b.1964) is a Dutch photographer and filmmaker.

A few years ago I bought her book documenting the population of Shishmaref, an Inupiaq Eskimo community on an island in the far northwest corner of Alaska. This is another long term project by her, investing in documenting a group of people / community.

In 1992, Dana Lixenberg travelled to South Central Los Angeles for a magazine story on the riots that erupted following the verdict in the Rodney King trial. What she encountered inspired her to revisit the area, and led her to the community of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts.
Returning countless times over the following twenty-two years, Lixenberg gradually created a collaborative portrait of the changing face of this community.
Over the years, some in the community were killed, while others disappeared or went to jail, and others, once children in early photographs, grew up and had children of their own.

en.wikipedia.org: Dana_Lixenberg



Martin Roemers 'Metropolis'

Martin Roemers 'Metropolis'

Martin Roemers 'Metropolis'

Martin Roemers does not focus on the architectural silhouette of the city, his focus is on the stream of human energy that make the city what it is.
Roemers (b.1962) lives and works in Delft, Netherlands. Twice he won a World Press Photo Award, in 2006 and again in 2011 for Metropolis; in 2015 he was given the LensCulture Street Photography Award for Metropolis.

Many if not most of the images on display in Huis Marseille Photography Museum, I noticed had the stream of moving people transferred to ghost-like figures or merely a blur; obviously instrumental to that theme of 'energy', but I quickly grew tired of it. I did like images such as the top one, keeping the people in focus and other items transferred to the blur of movements - a matter of taste for I am a fan of Roemers' work.

More of my images on MyFlickr.com



Francesca Woodman in FOAM

Yesterday I visited FOAM (FOtografie AMsterdam) again, a regular haunt of mine to get inspired by work of other photographers.
On this particular outing to Amsterdam I did not know what FOAM had on offer. No familiar names I found, but inspiration often comes from what one encounters unexpectedly.
In this day & age of selfies the work of Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) fits right in, because she mainly photographed herself, or parts of herself, in this exposition 'On Being an Angel'.

Francesca Stern Woodman was an American photographer best known for her black and white pictures featuring either herself or female models. Many of her photographs show young women who are nude, blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), merging with their surroundings, or whose faces are obscured.
Her work continues to be the subject of much critical acclaim and attention, years after she killed herself at the age of 22, in 1981.
Woodman was born to artists George Woodman and Betty Woodman (Abrahams).
In late 1980, Woodman became depressed due to the failure of her work to attract attention and to a broken relationship.
She survived a suicide attempt in the autumn of 1980, after which she lived with her parents in Manhattan.
On 19Jan1981, Woodman died by suicide, jumping out of a loft window of a building on the East Side of New York.

Francesca Woodman in FOAM

I am not a great fan of the miniature size of most images on display, however they do emphasize their rather intimate character.

en.wikipedia.org: Francesca_Woodman
More images of my visit, including other artists, on MyFlickr.com



Newsha Tavakolian, photographer

Newsha Tavakolian's exhibition 'I know why the rebel sings' at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery.

Newsha Tavakolian's exhibition 'I know why the rebel sings' at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery.

Newsha Tavakolian's exhibition 'I know why the rebel sings' at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery.

Best known for her iconic photographs of struggle and conflict, Newsha Tavakolian creates opportunities to decipher the human condition with candor and sensitivity.
A self-taught photographer, Newsha (b.1981) began working professionally in the Iranian press athe the age of 16! She got her international break in 2001 at age 21, when she met J.P. Pappis, founder Polaris Images, New York at a photography festival in Perpignan, France. Thereafter, she began covering Iran for Polaris Images, in the same year, and started working as a freelancer for The Times in 2004

'I know why the rebel sings' reveals Tavakolian's mastery at composing moments of privacy and contemplation, even under the pervasive shadow of malevolent power. Her ongoing engagement with the human figure has produced intense portraits of intimacy and silence.

I attended the exhibition at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam (Herengracht 603) today. The exhibition shows her personal work and the fruits of her work as a photojournalist. The contrast is rather striking, though I found the persons portrayed ('Look') invariably 'closed' in their expressions. It probably tells us something about living in Iran.
Newsha is one of the first female photojournalists in Iran and her work extends from rather daring photo reports to political events, as well as sensitive portraits of young people living with their dreams under severe sanctions in ordinary life, often resorting to exploits in some underground culture.

en.wikipedia.org: Newsha_Tavakolian



Arnaldur Indridason - Schemerspel, thriller

Over the years (2010Q2 - 2011Q2 - 2012Q2 - 2013Q2 - 2014Q1 - 2014Q4 - 2015Q1 - 2015Q3) I have frequently testified of my enthusiasm for this Icelandic writer. This time is no different!
A few months ago I was in an opportunity to 'fill in the blanks' on my bookshelf of books by Arnaldur Indriðason, when I found (Dutch) titles reprinted in 2014.
'Schemerspel' has as its original title 'Einvígið', published in 2011. While I prefer to read in English, some (like this title, consulting Wikipedia) have not yet been translated in English.

Indridason's book are easy to read, he uses a clear style of writing and a moderate amount of people are involved in the story - which is good as the Icelandic names are something to get used to. The translater, Adriaan Faber, has taken the trouble to explain the use and pronunciation of letters such as ð.
There is always more to the 'whodunnit', such as the personal background of the investigator, Icelandic folklore or an actual event.

The crime committed here is the stabbing of a 17-year old, Ragnar. It happened in a cinema, under complete darkness, while Ragnar was making sound recordings on his cassette player.
The investigation develops against the backdrop of the Boris Spassky - Bobby Fischer chess match in Iceland, in 1972.
Soon international politics are involved and not just the Yanks and the Russians have their 'play', but also the Brits seem involved (the situation is tense because of 'The Second Cod War', which lasted from 1972 until Nov.1973).

Indriðason's first books had as its main character Police Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson; the two books prior to this book saw Erlendur disappearing 'on leave' while the story was carried by his police 'sidekicks'.
Erlendur Sveinsson attributed in previous books his police instincts to his predecessor, Marion Briem. This book is about Marion Briem: his background as a kid (suffering from tbc), the relation with his father and his first love, his solitary nature (effecting his police methods) and his search for the killer(s) of Ragnar. I write 'his' as a natural thing, but there is something to this...
The fact that the closing chapter has a very unexpected unravelling of the plot is testimony to the talents of Arnaldur Indridason. That, and the well proportioned intertwined flashbacks to Marion's youth and the Spasski-Fischer chess match.

There was one thing that I had a little trouble with and I rather doubt the need for effect here: the androgyne character of Marion Briem.
Two men, after speaking to Marion, say to one another afterwards: "Don't you find it confusing that sometimes you don't know if you have spoken to a man or a woman?" (my translation -Webmaster). Chapter 40 in this book is the only reference I found where a reference to 'she' was made.
But in an earlier book I seem to recall a reference made to John Wayne the actor, who was born as born Marion Robert Morrison, implying Marion Briem to be a man.
It may explain why Marion's (girl) friend chooses to end their relationship (there is reference to 'people talking') after so many years, a friendship which started in a sanatorium in Denmark and continued in an on/off love relationship for many years. And she/he confesses to an all-encompassing loneliness to Katrín.
But the lack of any femininity in Marion's behaviour trigger an overwhelming male reference in my mind

I have read a remark that the book cannot be described a thriller (no problem to read this book before bedtime), but rather a 'detective'. I would say the modern tag 'literary crime drama' is very suitable, for me it was nothing short of a 'page-turner'.
While Erlendur Sveinsson makes his appearance on the final page, as a young policeman in uniform, I am hoping he will return soon to take his place as the main character again; for me he is the most compelling personage in Indriðason's crime writing!



The Birth of a Republic - Francis Stafford in China

The Birth of a Republic - Francis Stafford in China

My fascination for, besides photography, China has brought me to buy three wonderful photobooks in 2015; this one is the third, bought last november.
The first two were: 1.Willem Wernsen's street photography in modern China (discussed 2015Q2) and 2. Among the Celestials (discussed on this blog, see date 21JAN2016).

The Birth of a Republic' by Hanchao Lu is subtitled Francis Stafford's photographs of China's 1911 Revolution and Beyond. A wonderful document which I came across in a Half-Price Bookstore in Texas last november: truly an exquisite find!

Francis E. Stafford (b.03Feb1884 in Boulder,CO - d.01Feb1938) moved to Shanghai in 1909 where he worked for Commercial Press.
As a photographer and expert in lithography, Francis E. Stafford worked for Commercial Press in Shanghai from 1909 to 1915, during which time he was commissioned to take pictures for books and newspapers being published at that time.
In October, 1911, at the beginning of the Revolution, Stafford was on hand to capture rare photos of the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.
He also took hundreds of important images of Chinese social life during the period from 1909 to 1915.
In the late 1990s Stafford’s grandson, Professor Ronald Anderson, discovered several albums of these photographs among his mother’s belongings. The Francis Stafford Collection of China contains 1.055 photos, all of which were digitized by Evan Anderson.
Stafford’s entire collection of photographs was donated in April, 2012 to the Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford University.

Stafford trained his lens on the leaders of the revolutionaries, the imperial court, and the generals, foot soldiers as well as on the common people.
A magnificent book to study or merely to browse and wonder!

en.wikipedia.org: Francis_Stafford




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Created: 03-Jan-2016