Michelangelo on the Pavement

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“The Creation of Adam” at Sydney Harbour.

The original work by Michelangelo has of course been hailed as a masterpiece, painted by the artist on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Much has been written about the genius of the composition and the originality of its vision.

It’s one of the most replicated works of art in the world, inspiring many artists — including this would-be Michelangelo — to create more than “pedestrian” art.

Pedestrian
Genius

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Mystery of the Wheel on a Window Sill

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I found this window in a pub in Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) intriguing because of the wheel. For some time it was a mystery to me what the wheel was for.

After some research, I now believe it’s a spinning wheel, used to spin thread or yarn from natural fibers. Invented in India, it was widely used in Europe until it was displaced during the Industrial Revolution.

The mystery is probably solved, but now it takes on a different meaning, evoking the old days before electricity when people were spinning threads near windows.

A window to the past.

Windows
Circle

Will the Printed Book Be Irrelevant in the Future?

Some say “books are dead” and it’s time to ditch 15th-century technology.

There’s a detailed explanation on why they are now irrelevant, including space, cost, and readability.

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But there are those who say doomsayers are wrong. Many of the reasons given are related to the tactile experience, the option to personalize, and the emotional attachment.

They are not only for showing off, says another.

My take is that they won’t totally die, but will most likely be limited to those who really appreciate them for what they are — physical objects to own. After all, one can put a value to the first copy of the first edition of Isaac Newton’s first book. I wonder if we can value the first ever digital “publication” of an e-book?

As a carrier of content, there are means that are faster, cheaper and more accessible than the printed book. But like playing music through vinyl records, there is joy in holding it, appreciating the cover art and spending time to enjoy it.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. One can get a daily dose of content from an e-book or tablet, and also enjoy a hard cover once in a while.

Layered
Irrelevant

A Roman Garden With Bellflowers

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An ancient Roman sculpture garden is recreated at the Courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

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At this time of year, chimney bellflowers (Campanula pyramidalis) appear in the courtyard. The flowers are grown from seed and take two years to reach their six-foot height!

Quite an impressive work of horticulture.

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
– Douglas Adams

Recreate

The Fabric of Society

It’s interesting how a piece of fabric can give insights on the larger society.

Who made it? How much did it cost? For whom? For what purpose?

A piece of fabric from a period can reflect how economics, politics, fashion, culture, and values are  interwoven to form a structure that holds everything together — the fabric of society.

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(At the Early Italian Room of the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, MA.)

Structure
Educate

Venus of Willendorf

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(Venus of Willendorf on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria)

The Venus of Willendorf is a 4.4-inch figurine made around 28,000 years ago, a famous example of “Venus figurines” from the Old Stone Age (Upper Paleolithic). (Archeologists associate this period with the earliest appearance of modern humans — this is where “Paleo diet” comes from, also called caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet).

The “oldest undisputed example of a depiction of a human being yet discovered” is the Venus of Hohle Fels dating as far back as 40,000 years ago.

These figurines, no more than a few inches high, are carved from stone, ivory, or molded from clay. Many depict women with exaggerated sexual features, faceless heads and missing arms and legs. Their use and meaning are naturally subject to much speculation and nobody will probably ever know.

The exact purpose of the carvings aside, it is worth noting that they show such detail and craftsmanship. It is mind-boggling that such artifacts of great creativity and symbolism already existed in the Stone Age, a manifestation of culture at the dawn of human history.

The Venus of Willendorf, like other Venus figurines, is unusual. But maybe we can also take pride that our species is truly unusual too.


Unusual