Ligthing up the divide

European Space Agency’s astronaut Andre Kuipers took this photograph of Berlin from space in 2019. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was the first to bring attention to this marked difference in Berlin at night when he saw it from space in 2013.

Chris Hadfield took this picture from space, “Berlin at night. Amazingly, I think the light bulbs still show the East/West division from orbit.” April 17, 2013. (Twitter).

On April 13 2013, it was 23 years 5 months and 4 days since the Berlin Wall fell – so why this difference?

East Berlin’s street lights were a sodium vapor lamp which emit a soft yellow light, whereas West Berlin has fluorescent lights which emit white light. Apparently, the reunified city government had not gotten around to changing the East German lights yet!!

The brightly lit up blob in the center which looks like it’s in the East is Alexanderplatz which was heavily renovated after reunification and hence shows white light. The oval shaped darkness at the 9 0’clock spot is the Tiergarten, and the lit up line running through it is a major road, Unter den Linden, which leads to the well-lit Brandenburg gate.

The legendary Tempelhof Airport is now a park.

At around the 3 o’clock spot there’s another dark circle – that is the legendary Tempelhof Airport – the site of the Berlin airlift where American cargo planes brought in food and other supplies to the city when it was blockaded from all sides by the Soviet Union. The airport is now a park.

Belin is home to some of the most beautiful streetlights, some of which have been around the mid 1800s. It seems that the remaining 30,000 streetlights are set to be replaced with more energy and environmentally friendly street lights. Many Berlin residents are trying to get a UNESCO World heritage classification for the old streetlamps in an effort to save these beautiful lamps.

Notorious RBG – Sunday Seven

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020). The world lost a trailblazer and a true champion this week.

  • I pray that I may be all that (my mother) would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.
  • Fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
  • I would advise more listening, less talking.
  • I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle, it’s the pendulum, and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back.
  • It helps sometimes to be a little deaf. When a thoughtless and unkind word is spoken best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
  • You should speak in your own voice.
  • Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.

16 September 1620

16 September 1620: Weighed anchor. Wind E.N.E., a fine gale. Laid course W.S.W. for northern coasts of Virginia.

400 years ago, on this day, after seeing multiple delays and making unplanned stops at various ports to repair Speedwell, the Mayflower sailed out of Plymouth alone into the Atlantic, and into the pages of history books.

She carried 102 people – a motley group Separatists and Strangers – people seeking opportunity in the New World, 74 men and 28 women, and 31 children.

Bernard Finnegan Gribble (1872-1962), Loading Up the Mayflower
The Mayflower carried with the following food supply - 
Breadstuff's, including,--
     Biscuits or ship-bread (in barrels).
     Oatmeal (in barrels or hogsheads).
     Rye meal (in hogsheads).
Butter (in firkins).
Cheese, "Hollands" and English (in boxes).
Eggs, pickled (in tubs).
Fish, "haberdyne" [or salt dried cod] (in boxes)
Smoked herring (in boxes).
Meats, including,--
     Beef, salt, or "corned" (in barrels).
           Dry-salted (in barrels).
           Smoked (in sacks).
           Dried neats'-tongues (inboxes).
     Pork, bacon, smoked (in sacks or boxes).
           Salt [" corned "] (in barrels).
           Hams and shoulders, smoked (in canvas sacks or hogsheads).
Salt (in bags and barrels).
Vegetables, including,--
     Beans (in bags and barrels).
     Cabbages (in sacks and barrels).
     Onions (in sacks).
     Turnips (in sacks).
     Parsnips (in sacks).
     Pease (in barrels), and
Vinegar (in hogsheads), while,--
Beer (in casks), brandy, "aqua vitae" (in pipes), and gin ["Hollands
"strong waters," or "schnapps"] (in pipes) were no small
 or unimportant part, from any point of view, of the provision supply.

(Source: Azel Ames, The May-Flower and Her Log).

The Fauvist and the Fish

Fauvist paintings were first exhibited in 1905 in the Salon D’Automne, in direct response to the official Salon that took place in Paris every spring. The major Fauve artists were Matisse, Vlaminck, Derain, and Rouault. The name Fauve – wild beast – was first used for their work by art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who said of a Roman sculpture in the Salon D’Automne, “Donatello among the wild beast.”

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) started his art career by painting in the traditional school, but by the early 1900s he had transitioned to near abstract painting style, loose brush strokes, and bold and intense colors that came to characterize Fauvism. The Fauves used vibrant bold colors to react against photography which was the new art form. Fauvists used colors and shapes to express emotion: achieving harmony by focusing on composition and colors that came together. Fauvism lasted as a unified art movement for a mere five years.

The Goldfish is a series of still-life paintings that Matisse painted of goldfish in a bowl. On a trip to Morocco, he had seen people staring at goldfish, and found the whole idea very relaxing. The function of the Goldfish painting was to evoke an emotional response, as well as to paint something that would provide contemplative relaxation to the viewer.

Matisse did not try to recreate reality, rather this is his pictorial reality – his version of a tranquil paradise with bright, bold colors, tilted tabletops, and multiple viewpoints.

6 September 1620

The Mayflower was destined to make the voyage across the Atlantic alone. After repairing Speedwell in Dartmouth, both ships had set sail on 2 September 1620. However, within a day of sailing Speedwell developed leaks again and both ships turned around and returned to England – this time to Plymouth Harbor where they anchored on 6 September 1620.

Plymouth Harbor where both Speedwell and Mayflower sailed to on 6 Sept 1620

Speedwell’s logs would have read as follows:

2 September      Weighed anchor, ‘as did also MAY-FLOWER, and set sail. Laid general course W. S. W. Wind fair.

3 September      Fair wind, but ship leaking.

4 September      Wind fair. Ship leaking dangerously. MAY-FLOWER in company.

5 September      About 100 leagues from land’s end. Ship leaking badly. Hove to. Signalled MAY-FLOWER, in company. Consultation between masters, carpenters, and principal passengers. Decided to put back into Plymouth and determine whether pinnace is seaworthy. Put about and laid course for Plymouth.

6 September      Wind on starboard quarter. Made Plymouth harbor and came to anchor. MAY-FLOWER in company.

It was in Plymouth that the ship which had caused so many delays was finally deemed finally to not be seaworthy. It was decided that the Mayflower would sail alone. Some of the passengers who had sailed from Leiden, Netherlands abandoned their plans of going to the New World, while other crammed into the Mayflower to continue their journey.

On 14 September 1620 after transferring its cargo to Mayflower, Speedwell “Weighed anchor and took departure for London, leaving Mayflower at anchor in roadstead.”

On 16 Septeber 1620 Mayflower continued on this journey alone and sailed into history books.

Postcards from Venice

The most amazing thing about these stunningly beautiful paintings is that they were purchased as souvenirs by the well-heeled travelers of the 18th century. And the second most amazing thing is that these scenes of Venetian canals were made by Canaletto – was there ever a more befitting name!!

Canaletto, Rialto Bridge 1942
Canaletto, Grand Canal in Venice 1738
Canaletto, The Entrance to the Grand Canal 1730

Canaletto (meaning little Canal of Canal Jr.) was the nickname of Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697 – 1768). He was a landscape artist of vedute or view paintings which were purchased by wealthy travelers who did the Grand Tour in the 18th Century. This was a cultural tour that young men from upper class aristocratic families would undertake – spending as much as three or four years in Europe, particularly Greece and Italy. Canaletto catered to the aristocrats and his paintings were some of the most prized souvenirs from these Tours.

Canaletto, The Grand canal from San Vio 1723-24
Canaletto, Grand Canal from Ca ‘ Balbi 1721 -23

Suddenly my two Venetian masks (which were probably made in China) that I bought as souvenirs from my 2-day trip to Venice don’t seem that great anymore!!

What’s on your walls?

When I was looking at Paul Gauguin’s Still Life with Peonies (1884), I noticed something interesting – there’s an Edgar Degas ballerina painting in the background. What is the other painting in the background? I think it’s a Cezanne painting, but I haven’t been able to find the exact painting yet. I noticed Gauguin does this a lot – in many of his still life paintings, there is another painting in the background – almost like an homage to an artist friend or an artist he admired.

Nature Morte aux Tomatoes (1883) – with a Van Gogh in the background, the brushstrokes are characteristic of Van Gogh

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903), the French Post-Impressionist artist is most well known for the paintings he made while living in Tahiti. Gauguin was a friend of Camille Pissaro, Paul Cezanne, Degas, and even Van Gogh – with Cezanne having the biggest influence on him. He collected artworks of both Degas and Cezanne, many of which appear in the background of his works.

Woman in Front of a Still Life by Cezanne (1890) – this one is titled with the background painting
This is Hope (1901) shows two paintings in the background. The top one is French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’s (1824 – 1898) painting titled Hope. The bottom one is an etching by Edgar Degas.

Still Life with Japanese Print, and, Still Life with Head-Shaped Vase and Japanese Woodcut – both have a Japanese print in the background. Interestingly, the painting on the left in the background, at first glance looked like a Gustav Klimt painting to me!!

Maurice Denis, Homage to Cezanne (1900)

In an interesting turn of events, French artist Maurice Denis (1870 – 1943) pays homage to Cezanne and indirectly to Gauguin and Renior in this painting. The painting in the front easel is Cezanne’s Fruit Bowl, Glass, and Apples (1879) which was owned by Gauguin. Hanging on the back wall of the gallery are a Gauguin and a Renoir painting

(Images courtesy Google Arts & Culture &National Museum of Australia)

The Wind of Change

The Wind of Change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.We must all accept is as fact and our national policies must take account of it.

Harold Macmillan, The Wind of Change , 1960, South Africa
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
MEDITATION XVII 
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

Roses are red, Violets are…blue?

I really enjoyed writing about the origins of flower names in a previous blog, “A Rose by any Other Name“, and since there are so many flowers with such pretty names I thought I would do one more.

Violets – We’ve all heard the Valentine rhyme with roses and violets, but violets aren’t really blue – they are violet!! Interestingly, the color came after the flower in this case – the flower is named after the Latin viola or a little violin.  The valentine poem we are all so familiar was first found in Gammer Gurton’s Garland which was a 1784 collection of nursey rhymes:

The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you 
Ilya Mashkov, Still Life with Camellia (1913)

Camellia  – When Carl Linnaeus standardized plant names in 1753, he named these flowers after Father Georg Joseph Kamel (1161–1706), a Jesuit missionary and naturalist. Father Kamel was a missionary to the Philippines where he became a plant specialist of the Philippine islands. Camellias are native to Japan and China, where they are known to exist since 2737 BCE. The flower is called Tsubaki in Japanese and symbolizes the divine.

Peony – this beautiful flower symbolizing romance and prosperity is named after Paeon who in Greek mythology was the physician to the Greek Gods. Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the God of medicine and healing. Asclepius was jealous of Paeon and threatened to kill him. Zeus turned Paeon into a flower to save him from Asclepius – and that’s how this flower got its name. Peonies are the national flower of China and are known as the king of flowers in China.

Pete Mondrian, Red Amaryllis with Blue Background (1907)

Amaryllis  – this flowers is named after a shepherdess in Latin poet Virgil’s work called the Eclogues which are a collection of 10 unconnected pastoral poems that he composed between 42 and 37 BCE. Amaryllis was in love with Alteo, and to get his attention she pierced her heart daily with a golden arrow for a month. The blood that dropped from her heart was red like the flower which came to be known as Amaryllis. Perhaps also because of the red color, the Amaryllis plays a starring role at Christmas time.