Wonder Wednesday

As a bit of a rail fan, taking the Oslo to Bergen railway during my visit to Norway was a definite highlight.  We didn’t go all the way to Bergen, shunting off at Myrdal to take the even more famous Flåm railway line, one of the steepest regular rail lines in the world, dropping 866m over about 20km in length.  As you might expect, it is a visually stunning rail line, nestled in the mountains and full of gorges and rivers and waterfalls.  We traveled during the late summer and it was gorgeous, and I imagined it would be absolutely stunning to also see in the snow.

And now I know!  Here’s a cab-forward view of the line, taking the route from the bottom to the top, in full, 4k glory, filmed by one of the operators:

And if that’s not enough, her channel has a multitude of videos from all along the Oslo to Bergen line, in all seasons, including a continuous stream (but not live) to leave on in the background and ‘look out the window’ at every now and again, while chatting with fellow rail enthusiasts.  Lovely!

Wonder Wednesday

Forget crop circles… snow art is where it’s at!

These amazing works are made by Kim Asmussen up near lake Superior on the lovely freshly fallen powder, walking the designs with snowshoes.  Mesmerizing and amazing!  And all captured for posterity with a drone, which also makes for some great video:

Wonder Wednesday

Oh wow, there’s something I really like about this piece of concept art!  If it looks like a monument, it is of a fashion: it’s from the early days of what would eventually become Disney’s California Adventure.  This sculptural spire would have been the centerpiece of what was then still being developed as “Westcot”, a west coast version of EPCOT. Interestingly, it’s the second version of the park’s centerpiece, the original being a large globe similar to EPCOT, albeit one planned to be enveloped in a second lattice work globe twice as big and embedded with a gazillion lights.  That received some push back from the local community, and thus this spire was born, something to still maintain an impressive monumentality from within the park while reducing its visual impact from without.

There are other sketches that show the spire at the front of a landscape-like building, but while they’re neat I prefer this one above.  It feels both more approachable and more impressive on its own, with the fountains and walkways and the stonehenge-like segmented slabs that surround it.

In the end, of course, it was never built, and the saga that leads us up to the park that is there today is a whole fascinating story of its own.

 

Wonder Wednesday

Check this out… a Toronto artist who creates these amazing rock (and sometimes ice) balancing sculptures.  Not just along the shoreline (though that’s his main canvas) but all over the place.  All works of delicateness, always knowing that they will soon be bowled over by the waves, wind, rain, snow, and more.

Absolutely beautiful all around, and I find the ones that pair water, stone, and fire especially striking.

This is but a small smattering of their amazing work, for many more check out their gallery at their website that bears a wonderfully appropriately name!

Architecture Monday

Jean-Michel Jarre is no stranger to incorporating architecture into his concerts.  Whether the office towers in Houston, or at La Defence in Paris, or the great pyramids of Giza, his epic outdoor concerts (sometimes with audiences in the millions) the buildings all become part of the show, both as more obvious backdrops for projections and lights and fireworks and as also acting as giant prosceniums, creating the very container for the concert itself.

So, even beyond my love of his music, it was with great excitement that I learned that he’d been invited to host a New Year’s Eve concert inside none other than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris… well, sort of.  The concert was held inside a virtual version of the famed cathedral, which allowed both for way more people to inhabit the space (plus, the cathedral is of course still under repair) and it allowed for his signature visuals to push beyond the boundaries of reality and physics to create effects that interacted with the building in amazing and novel ways.

And boy did they ever!  The best effects were definitively the ones that played with the building, either interacting with the architecture or inhabiting it in a way that changed the experience of the space:  boxes of light that enveloped the columns of the nave, long ribbons of light that hugged the form and changed the emphasis from the vertical to the horizontal, glowing orbs and objects that hovered high above amongst the stained-glass windows.  All along with the usual bevvy of effects including projection mapping, shafts of light, and the video blocks that surrounded the virtual Jean-Michel on his stage at the central crossing of nave and transept.

Unfortunately… the official replay of the concert by Unesco and the City of Paris, both of whom were the generators of the concert, which I myself watched, is no longer available for viewing on Youtube.  Not sure why they made it such a limited run engagement to view it, but they did.  Fortunately, some who attended ‘in person’ (in VR) captured their experience and have made their recordings available:

An amazing concert, well worth watching.  For me this was an extra amazing experience on several levels, for almost exactly 23 years earlier I’d visited Notre Dame de Paris on Christmas eve, getting to experience the architecture, the organ, and the choir all acting in glorious unison in the run up to Midnight Mass.  To “be in” the cathedral again for a concert that was integrally tied and inseparable from the architecture was just fantastic.  A celebration on so many levels.

Wonder Wednesday

I always loved the back of the Canadian 5 dollar bill from the “Birds of Canada” series of bills.  Something about the light blue colour and the stillness of the scene really did it for me.  A restaurant I used to visit in Ottawa even had a giant version reproduced on the wall.

But… somehow… I never knew of the practice of Spocking the bills!  A few choice scribbles turns Sir Wilfred Laurier into the famous Vulcan:

Which continued in the next version of the bill:

I knew even less that some slightly different scribbles could turn him into Snape:

Who knew that Laurier was so versatile in his acting roles?

(Apparently, alas, his rendition on the latest series of bills is such that he isn’t so easily disguised anymore…)

Check out more on the Canadian bank notes at this link here.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from 15,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. And life was short and difficult. As many as a quarter of women died in childbirth. Around 50% of children died before the age of five.

But they also remind us that the humans of the past were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. These communities hunted and gathered and there were no large caloric surpluses so every healthy person would’ve had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water.

And yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for humans.”

John Green

(from this episode of his great podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed)

(which was animated into this amazing video by Kurzgesagt)