Tuesday/ the art of deception

‘You need only two rich people to want to buy something they can exclusively own for it to become very expensive’.
– Sebastian Smee, art critic for Washington Post


Here’s the instantly infamous digital work of art ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ by an artist from North Carolina called Beeple (Mike Winkelmann). It’s a collage of 5,000 digital images. Each one took one day to create. The buyer was a Singapore-based founder and financer of the cryptofund Metapurse who goes by the name Metakovan. That says it all right there, in my humble opinion.
An image from ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, by Beeple. (Christie’s Images Limited 2020)

The recent sale of the digital thing (it’s a .jpg file) called ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days‘ with its non-fungible token* attached, has caused a stir in the art world. It went for $69.3 million.

*Essentially a digital certificate of authenticity that is a string of characters connected to a blockchain: the same concept that powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. (The blockchain means the characters sit in different physical places around the internet, and have to be combined to verify authenticity).

Is it art? I don’t know, I guess so — but it cannot possibly be worth $69.3 million. Just as the Rabbit, the Pool with Two Figures, or that duct-taped banana, cannot possibly be worth $91.1 million, $90.3 million or $125,000, respectively.

(Just for the record, Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as having the highest-ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US $100 million on Dec. 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US $870 million today).

Here is David Hockney’s ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)‘ that went for $90.3 million in Nov. 2018.
Rabbit by Jeff Koons was sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2019. It set a new record for the most expensive work by a living artist to be sold at auction after the Pool with Two Figures.
The ‘Art Basel Banana’ was a stunt, and not a work of art (my opinion). It was created by Maurizio Cattelan, and he titled the ‘art work’ Comedian. Mr. Cattelan’s bananas were offered in a limited edition of three with one artist’s proof, sold at a cost of $120,000 apiece at the Art Basel show in Miami Beach in Dec. 2019. Maybe the bananas were special? No. At least one of the bananas reportedly came from a local Miami supermarket.

 

Friday/ a thousand-and-one nights

My used book with Arabian fairy tales arrived at last, shipped from Germany with snail mail.
I could not find the Afrikaans edition online — the one that had I read in bed fifty years ago as a youngster! — but I found the German translation that offers the same gorgeous water paint illustrations, on Abebooks.com.

The tales inside are as follows:
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Started
Little Kadi
Sinbad the Sailor
Prince Sayn Al Asnam and the King of Spirits
Aladdin and the Wonder Lamp
Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers
The Magic Horse
The Envious Sisters
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Ends

Sinbad the Sailor This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Big trouble for Sinbad and his mates on their third voyage, ship-wrecked on an island with one-eyed man-eating giants. The captain was eaten first because he was the fattest! I bet he could not run as fast as his crew. Yikes. (I don’t believe these are technically Cyclopes. The Cyclopes come from Greek mythology. Arabians were students of Greek literature, and Homer’s epic poem Odyssey probably inspired this fairy tale). [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].
The Magic Horse Ah yes: the prince undoubtedly proposing to the princess with some servants looking on. (I confess that I don’t recall the details of this fairy tale. I will have to read the German, and report back). Got to love those lovely light blue veils worn by the servants, looking exactly like 2021 pandemic surgical masks! [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].

Friday/ Anton Goosen turns 75

South African folk singer Anton Goosen turned 75 today.

He sings mostly in Afrikaans, but also in English.
I love his song called Magalies, O Magaliesberg — a song that (somewhat) romanticises the hardships of the 1830s Great Trek of the Voortrekkers (pioneers).
Some of these pioneers ended up in what would become the Transvaal Colony, and is today called Gauteng Province.

The Magaliesberg is a modest but well-defined mountain range north of Pretoria, with ancient origins. It was formed some 2 billion years ago.
The area around the range has seen occupation by humans dating back at least 2 million years, to the earliest hominin species (such as Mrs Ples). The Sterkfontein Caves, which lie at the World Heritage Site called the Cradle of Humankind, are close by. [From Wikipedia].

Ox wagons during the Great Trek in South Africa (1835-1838).
[Picture from Wikimedia Commons, from p209 of the book ‘The Voortrekkers’ by J.S. Skelton, 1909].
Voor op die wa sit my hoepelbeenpa,
agter op die wa sit my vaalhaarma
Waai die wind, waai my jas,
knoop my Sannie haar sydoek vas
Veertien rooies voor aan die wa,
sewe van my en sewe van my pa
Die hotagter, die Afrikaan,
hy en sy maat moet die disselboom dra

(Front of the wa1 sits my hoop-legged pa,
back of the wa sits my drab-haired ma
Blows the wind, blow our coats,
ties my Tammy her silk cloth close
Fourteen red ones front of the wa,
seven of mine & seven of my pa’s
The left back, the Afrikaan2,
he and his mate, must bear the bar)

1Short for wagon, we say v-ahh in Afrikaans
2A breed of cattle indigenous to South Africa

Lyrics from ‘Magalies, O Magaliesberg‘ from the Anton Goosen album ‘Liedjieboer Innie Stad’ (1986), with my own rough translation into English.

Sunday/ an unknown Van Gogh

This painting of Van Gogh has been in the hands of a French family for more than 100 years. It will be auctioned in March and is expected to fetch from €5m to €8m ($6.1m to $9.8m).

Auction of an unknown Van Gogh.
Paris A painting of Vincent Van Gogh (1853- 1890) that has been in the possession of a French family for more than a 100 years, never exhibited in public, will be auctioned in Paris on March 25 by Sotheby’s and Mirabaud Mercier. Van Gogh painted this canvas in the spring of 1887 in Paris, called Scène de rue à Montmartre. (Van Gogh lived there at the time, at 54 Rue Lepic, with his brother Theo). It depicts a street scene with the Moulin de la Galette, a windmill, and businesses near the top of the district of Montmartre in Paris. It is believed to be one of the last paintings of Van Gogh’s Montmartre works in private ownership. The painting is oil on canvas, size 46 x 63 cm (18 x 25 in). The auctioneers hope the final bid will be between €5m and €8m ($6.1m and $9.8m).
[Image & text from Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad].

Friday/ the Year of the Ox is here

Happy Lunar New Year! The Year of the Ox* starts today.
In Asian cultures people wear red to celebrate the arrival of the lunar new year, the color that symbolizes luck and prosperity.
Married couples hand out red packets with cash inside to children and unmarried adults.

*Read: bovine creature. The zodiacal ox could be construed as male, female, neutered, hermaphroditic, and either singular or plural.

From my porcelain display case: a child holding the ‘newly born’ Ox, symbolizing the start of The Year of the Ox. I bought the item at a souvenir shop at Hong Kong International Airport in 2010 or 2011. At this point, I am really not sure when I will make it out to Hong Kong again.

Monday/ around Westlake Avenue

I went to the dentist this morning. At 7.30 am on a Monday morning, there was virtually no traffic on the way in. That explains why local TV stations are still not bothering with providing traffic updates like they used to.

After my appointment, I walked around Westlake Avenue, to take a few pictures of the deserted street blocks and offices and store fronts.

The two-story Streamline Moderne-styled building of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is at Ninth Ave. & Lenora St. It was previously a Dodge dealership, the anchor of Westlake Avenue’s long-departed auto row. Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s.
Westlake Ave. & Seventh Ave. Here comes the South Lake Union Streetcar. It’s empty. ‘Experience the virtual world of Minecraft like never before‘, says the lettering on the side. Hey, that’s OK. I’ll pass. Wild enough to experience the pandemic world of Covid-19, like never before.
I like the inside-outside seating area that had been set up across from the Amazon biospheres. There is an impressive extraction fan system in the green enclosure, for sucking out wayward SARS-CoV-2 virus that may be suspended in the air.
This brown office building on Eighth Ave. off Westlake Ave. is now called Amazon The Summit. The lights are on in a few offices in the middle, but the rest is dark.
This self-reflecting tower next door to The Summit is called Amazon re:Invent (520 ft tall, 37 floors, completed 2019). That’s the Cirrus Apartment building reflected in the bottom of the picture (440 ft tall, 41 floors, completed 2015).
Another view of the Cirrus apartment building on the left, and the Amazon re: Invent on the right.
Here’s Urban Triangle Park, with one of several 6-ft high aluminum Holding Hope signs, a new art installation now on display in several locations throughout downtown Seattle.
I was supposed to take a selfie there, and post a picture with the tag #HoldingHopeSeattle on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I guess my blog does not count. For every post, the Downtown Seattle Association will make a $10 donation to the Pike Place Market Foundation.

Friday/ wishing us a Happy New Year

I drove down to the Space Needle last night, to take a few pictures of it in pink. There were no crowds this year, but the monorail was still running to Westlake Park and back, with a few souls inside. Likewise, the Space Needle elevator took a few people at a time up to the viewing deck.

I had to wait until midnight to see the virtual Space Needle celebrations on TV, sponsored by T-Mobile and produced by Terry D. Morgan.

The wait was worth it. The creators used sky-mapping technology and video footage to create a spectacle accompanied by dramatic music. Below are a few stills from the video that was posted afterwards.

 

Sunday/ the St. Ingbert apartments

There were beautiful soft grays and pinks in the blue sky today at sunset.
I made my way down all along Harrison Street, towards the Interstate 5 overlook by Melrose Avenue.
The St. Ingbert apartments is right there by Harrison and Melrose.

The St. Ingbert apartment building was constructed in 1928 with Art Deco detail. The architect is not known. St. Ingbert is a reference to the hometown of the builder (Ludwig J. Hellenthal), a town named Sankt Ingbert in Saarland, Germany. Sankt Ingbert is very close to the French border.
Look for the Space Needle in the distance, and the blue spires of Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral to its right, just above Interstate 5.
Art Deco detail at an entrance to the St. Ingbert apartments. I should have taken a closer picture of the very cool lettering on the glass, at the very bottom of the picture. I will do that when I walk by there again.

Friday/ Christmas Day

Here is a giraffe from the annual Johannesburg (South Africa) Zoo’s Festival of Lights exhibit.
I bet putting one in my front yard would impress the neighbors!

Source: The Star newspaper. Photographer: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency.

Christmas Eve

There was still a little snow on the ground, in the shady areas, here in the city today.
Does that count as a White Christmas?
Merry Christmas. Geseënde Kersfees.

A nicely decorated house here on Capitol Hill’s 15th Avenue.

 

Sunday/ birds in my Christmas tree

I’m not traveling anywhere for Christmas this year.
So: no excuse for not putting up a tree.
I retrieved the one I have from the basement, and put up some of my bird figures in it, along with a few other decorations.

In the tree from the top down: bald eagle; mute swan (white swan); a sloth hiding behind some foliage, to its right; snowy owlgriffon (Cape vulture); toucan; blue-and-yellow macaw.
Bottom: African beaded art giraffereindeerllama art made with Peruvian llama wool; African wire-and-beads art reindeer.

Wednesday/ the Tillerman, reimagined

tillerman (plural tillermen)

noun
(US) A person who steers the rear wheels of a fire truck (a tiller truck) or controls its ladder


I first heard ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ by British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens from a vinyl record in 1980. A friend of mine in Stellenbosch, South Africa, played it for us in his dorm room. The record was made in 1970, and the artist changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977.

Fast forward 50 years from 1970, and now there is a ‘reimagined’ Tea for the Tillerman, issued on CD. There is a clarinet to accompany the piano in ‘Wild World’. In the ‘Father And Son’ remake, the young Yusuf’s voice for the son’s lyrics was left intact, but the today-Yusuf (72) sings the lines of the father. It’s very touching.

The original Tea for the Tillerman, issued in Nov. 1970, with its whimsical vinyl record cover.
And here is the 2020 Tea for the Tillerman 2. Rumor has it that Yusuf’s son convinced him to do the remake, and it was arranged and done in a farmhouse-turned-studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France. I see on YouTube that the new interpretation is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea – but I like it.

Friday/ decoding street art

I walked down to the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone by the East Precinct police station today.

All was quiet with not much traffic on the streets – but right then three police patrol vans erupted out of the police station garage, piercing sirens going and headlights flashing.  There was an emergency somewhere that they were rushing to.

Here’s artwork on the boarded up street corner where CHOP was (Pine St & 11th Ave): a gallery of pop culture characters.
At the back, left to right: Barney Rubble from The Flintstones (first appearance 1959), Luigi from Super Mario Bros., Inspector Gadget from the namesake animated TV series (1983), Ned Flanders from The Simpsons (1989), and The Kool-Aid Man, primary mascot for Kool-Aid (1975).
In front, left to right: Rocko the wallaby from Rocko’s Modern Life (1993), Nibbler from the cartoon series Futurama (1999), Underdog from the animated movie (2007).
And this one makes one wonder what Anti-Anti-Antifa would mean. Well: Antifa is short for anti-fascist* or anti-fascism. So Anti-Antifa would presumably support a right-wing fascistic stance, and Anti-Anti-Antifa would bring us back to a reiterated Antifa. (Just as in math, where a double negative becomes a positive).
*Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe [Wikipedia].

Tuesday/ landed: CD from North Carolina

My CD from a warehouse in North Carolina landed in the mailbox today (from a bare-bones website called MovieMars).

None of the CD was available on Amazon, none on Discogs.com, none on Ebay. Amazon Netherlands does not ship to the United States, and I could order one from Amazon UK, but that would have cost $36 with the shipping cost. Yikes.

The CD is a 2018 compilation of 1980s songs from the BZN/ Band Zonder Naam (‘Band Without a Name’) band from the Netherlands. Very ‘meta’ (self-referential), that band name — I like it. I import my CDs into iTunes, old school. One of these days Apple will surely kill iTunes, and then I will have to find another solution for my music collection.

Saturday/ summer days

We have had a mild, average summer so far, with temperatures in the high 60s or 70s (18 to 24 °C). The sun still sets after 9 pm .. so even after dinner, there is still lots of time to go for a walk or to water the garden.

In the South and Southwest of the United States a phenomenon called a ‘heat dome*‘ has developed, which will lead to historic high temperatures the next few weeks. It is possible for Phoenix, AZ, to see 120 °F (48 °C).
*A heat dome occurs when strong, high-pressure atmospheric conditions trap hot ocean air like a lid or cap.

‘Garden Party in Wonderland’ .. postcard from Germany, circa 1930. I found it on a website called AbeBooks. 
P.S. That would be .. apple juice, that the jovial guy in the apron is serving up?

Monday/ quelle belle journée!

It was a fine day here in the city: eighty (27°C) and sunny.
My English-French illustrated dictionary has landed on my porch.
It is illustrated with panels from Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s Tintin characters, which is why I had to have it, of course.

From Harrap’s Tintin Illustrated Dictionary, published 1989. The panels are from ‘The Castafiore Emerald’ (first appearance in newspapers: 1961-1962).
The top panel has Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy (French name: Milou).
The traffic officer is apologizing to the Milanese opera diva Bianca Castafiore, for daring to write her a ticket for a fine.

Saturday/ go Slow

 

The Slow Mo 02 with its Apple-esque square face, all silver stainless steel, with a black dial, $300.
How to read the time. Love that last one .. would it be drama if ‘12.23’ is actually 12.24?

 

 

Is this the perfect watch for the pandemic? It’s a Swiss-made watch with one hand that rolls around the dial once every 24 hours. 12 noon at the top, of course, and midnight at the bottom.

 

Tuesday/ ‘escaping’ to space

How two Americans managed to escape the chaos of their country just in time …
‘We lucked out!’  ‘That was close!’
[Cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann in Der Tagespiegel newspaper].
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

They will stay for an extended time at the Space Station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.