A Long 2018

To finish off the year, I’d like to share a song that probably all of you have heard at least once before (if not many times), in the spirit of Giliell’s Soundtrack of Your Life series (see episodes here, here, here and here) and voyager’s original soundtrack post.

The Counting Crows have been among my favourite bands since grade 7 or so, and while I don’t listen to them nearly as often as I used to, I find I see their lyrics and angst in all kinds of different ways, depending on life stages and life events. Many of their songs have followed me through darker times, but have also given me pleasure during happier times.

While they have several songs I can listen to again and again, one of my all-time favourites is A Long December, although this year I have to disagree with the sentiment that ‘maybe this year will be better than the last’. In a global sense, that is – personal life will continue on in various ways, and professional aspects currently are tending towards some serious development. But! We shall see. In any case, I find the relevance of the sentiment – a not-particularly-celebratory feeling at the turning of the year – to be pretty much universal during all the new years I’ve had since mid-high school.

Also, here’s a happy crayfish who just received five worms before being released back into the pond (back in October). May all your 2019s be so fortunate.

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You Don’t Like Dandelions

The year is almost at an end, and thank goodness for that, amirite? 2019 should be so… much… ummm… well, let’s enjoy the end of 2018 at least, okay?

One of the biggest events for me this year was the passing of Caine, as a(n internet) friend, as an inspiration, as a teacher, as an emotional support. Amongst all the other changes, this was huge, so it was a very emotional moment when I recently received a package from Germany, which included not only life-saving cookies, but also a very special envelope with a very special letter and a huge reminder of what we all miss so much, embodied in a perfect shiny little pendant:

Horse pendant by Giliell. Best thing ever.
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And everything was blurry for a while.

Thus, before the closing of the year, I would like to say a big thank you to my fellow bloggers, my fellow readers and commenters, and most of all, to Caine (and Rick) for being the beginning and support of this whole blogging project.

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Today’s song choice is one that always, always reminds me of Caine – strangely, the song is about a person who would, most likely, be the ultimate opposite. The chorus reads something like “You – don’t like [the taste of] dandelions, / You – don’t like me; / Where others have a raging rapid, / You have built an H[ydro] E[lectric] S[tation]”. It’s my favourite new song by a local artist this year (the video isn’t), and I hope at least some of you enjoy it, too.

Also, I want to apologize for sparse contribution lately. I’m never good with the end of the year, which is a long and melodramatic story, but I hate New Year’s even more than I don’t like Christmas, and things don’t seem to get better with time (except the idea of not attending peopled activities or large fireworks events), but I will improve with the new year and the lengthening of days. Thanks for reading!

Homeward Bound

This is a travel day, and what with Gatwick and German airports and any number of random occurrences, I just want to get home. Sometime very early Sunday morning, I will be.

The quiet version of my feelings is here, but quite honestly, I’m still playing my angry music. So here’s Blue October, expressing a lot of frustration on my behalf:

(I confess, I have always had a weakness for rock musicians. Something about the way they express themselves without reserve. Especially when it’s traditionally masculine men expressing emotions. And previous post, it’s what I love most about the video – the tough, rockstar performance images placed beside the caring father images. Heart.)

Macedonia 9.2 – Skopje at Night v2

So, I did go out! I made new colleague-friends and took some time for quiet walking around the city, and yes, I took some photos!

Christmas isn’t as big a deal here as elsewhere in Europe (because most of the christian population is orthodox, and the muslim population obviously doesn’t celebrate as such), but the one thing that is a big deal here? Lights! Strings of lights! Everywhere, and in large amounts. To the point where walking down some of the pedestrian streets feels like walking through a galaxy though not like us, out on the edge of the Milky Way, but in a far more densely starred area. You’d think it would be garish, but it is quite lovely.

This is one of the lesser lit streets…
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Look up! Even the moon is overshadowed (overlit?).
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Still Life?

Or, how to bring classic paintings to life. Or to stillness. Or something. Anyway, for a bit of fun:

It all started in 2006, when the Malatheatre company’s founder Ludovica Rambelli — passed away in April 2017 — gave a lecture at the University of Naples, on Caravaggio’s way of working. That’s when Ludovica realised that the best way to explain it was through a theatrical performance. “He used actors to build the scenes he painted, in fact we did not reproduce his work, but recreated what happened in his studio,” said current company director, Dora De Maio, referring to what for a few years has become a real play entitled La conversione di un cavallo. 23 Tableaux Vivants dalle opere di Caravaggio, or simply, Tableaux Vivants.

Inspired, among others, by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s short film La Ricotta, the intention of this show is to achieve “a great visual impact” with a minimalist scenography, baroque melodies — by composers such as Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi — and a focus located on one side, which emulates the suggestive light effect of the Italian master’s paintings.

Watch them at work here, too:

I think it would be fun to try at home (or with a dedicated group of amateurs), but I also think it would be incredibly difficult to pull off their wonderful level of ‘casual movements of (un)dress PERFECT POSE’. Excellent co-ordination and execution. And such perfect expressions.

Now, nobody beats the original, but k.d. lang does a pretty fine job, if you ask me.

Another must-listen version.

Winter Drama

We saw them in sunlight, but after some of you mentioned a love of fog, I give you these same rooftops on that same day – this is reasonably early in the morning (it did get lighter, as the last picture shows), but the drama is only deepened by the looming darkness.

The fog lasted all through the day.

The wide view
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Where’s that shiny cupola disappeared?
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I don’t know what feels creepiest, the paired streetlights or the general sense of loomingness…
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Midday was considerably brighter, but visibility was still what it was.
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And here’s a creepy winter song, too.

Airports and Timeskips

In TNET, we had a small conversation about omens and quests, but I think the answer is much simpler than that.

See, I got some cookies in the mail (more about that sometime next week). Because I was expecting a long day of travel, I packed some as snacks for the trip. My original first connection was to a large hub airport that is reasonably close to the cookies’ region of origin. Obviously, this was not acceptable to the cookies (they are not meant to go home!), so they sent out waves of distress into the spacetime ether, and destiny listened – not only was that first flight delayed for more than 2 hrs (in the end!), but I couldn’t even be placed on the same route without missing one or some other of my later connections. However, instead of the double-plus-best-good option of visiting two completely new airports this trip, I got one very nice one at Zagreb. Add to that an earlier (than original) arrival at my final destination, and this is a win no matter how I look at it. It is now snowing outside my hotel window, and I have a happy ending, and one full productive work day behind me.

(And the cookies ended up saving both my life and the lives of my passengers between Vienna and Zagreb, but that is a much more mundane story and requires no fantastic elements. Thank you, cookies.)

Let us retrace my steps, then (though the Skopje photo is from last trip, as by the time I got in I couldn’t be bothered):

Riga
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Vienna (it’s a bad photo, so what, the cookies were calling my name)
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Zagreb (not a complicated airport, but so much I love about that construction and its geometry)
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Skopje
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This is Peteris Vasks writing about everything that is the opposite of anything related to heights, it is here for the the quietness and stillness. The moment the choir happens is the one where time stops for me.

Oh, speaking of stopped time, my favourite part through my terrible ordeal with delays and undelays was watching luggage trains make pretty tracks in the snow:

Hearts and ribbons? Particle collisions?
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Macedonia 9 – Skopje At Night

This is the last piece in the series (previous one here), which is fitting, because things have come around and I am back in Macedonia for the week. I doubt I will be taking many pictures this time, because work and I’m taking the opportunity to not really think about anything else outside of that.

So here’s a few pictures of Skopje at night, enjoy the light.

Alexander at dusk.
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Bridges into darkness.
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Mornings at the Station

It’s getting dark. Once again, an impressionist shot. But I will say that this darkness is unusual – for one, crappy camera, but also today has been a particularly foggy day, and it’s only getting worse now that evening is upon us.

I’m enjoying the atmosphere of the second shot, though. I’m standing between the two tracks, and something about that light effect and the out-of-focus is very appealing to me.

The usual angle, as it were…
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Incidentally, I am currently reading José Saramago’s Blindness (mixed feelings). Today’s weather is a lot like his characters describe their blindness: just a lot of white. Although the fog here is probably less luminescent; going home is going to be interesting. Oh yes, and we lost all our snow.

Speaking of keeping a lid on things, I travel next week to Macedonia again, returning on the 23rd. I have mixed feelings about this trip, but I guess it’s good to be recognized?

Contortions

Many things have fascinated me over the course of my life, not necessarily because I understood or understand them fully, but usually because there is some element of incomprehension – the idea of Schrödinger’s cat, for example, or a mysterious book that is actually a treasure hunt. While the first led to many… odd creations of art that included cats perched pensively in boxes in outer space surrounded by snakes and spiral galaxies, the second had gorgeous paintings of their own that I can still remember clearly (though I never solved the riddle itself).

About a year ago, I found myself returning to the paintings of Masquerade – though subconsciously. I was playing around with cats contorted into unusual positions by virtue of being forced into a small box: the frame, as it were. The whole idea was that you could place it any way you like, there was no proper up-down orientation. Later, as it happened, I had to adjust the subject matter to more closely align to a colleague’s preferences, and the final painting is of a horse (of course), about 10cm x 15cm.

It even works when upside down.
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And although one’s own paintings should look familiar, there was something more to it that wouldn’t stop poking at the back of my brain, until I remembered this image:

A page from Masquerade by Kit Williams.

Not quite the contortioning example of equine flexibility I came up with, but one can see the signs of influence. And it’s always fascinating how these sorts of little things can come together to become something new and different.

Anyway, I like my horse-in-a-box, and one day I will also complete the originally-intended cat-in-a-box.

To be honest, I always pictured Schrödinger’s poor cat as something of an unfortunate astronaut.

Vanitas of Mushrooms

As tends to happen, I’d forgotten about these beauties. This is a fungal skeleton I came across one early autumn morning, and in that delicious light, it was irresistible. The word that comes to mind is fragility.

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Translucency at its best.
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Delicate like a thin film of soap.
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One with the light.
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For more mushroom fun, I found this wonderful piece:

And Sting has the perfect song for us:

Closer to the Sun

I work on (essentially) the fourth floor so I have a great view of some rooftops. As we had another sunny day, I couldn’t help myself and gave the work camera another workout. Most photos below the fold, since I got a bit… carried away.

(They’re a bit of an obscure Canadian band but something about them caught my ear – their music makes me a little bit happy, a little bit upbeat, a lot like winter sunlight…)

It was much earlier in the morning – I had my fun before the work day began, and it was beautiful.
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