I recently came across these two short films by the French director Chris Marker (1921-2012) from Bestiaire (1990). The first one is a cat sleeping on a piano. And the second a series of owls, mostly swivelling their heads rather amazingly.
Looking at the cat, I realised for the first time that sleeping can be an art form.
Also, the next time I find it hard to sleep I am going to try to imagine being that cat and see what happens. (I shall stop short of lying down on top of the piano keyboard, however).
The owls go through a range of motion which is so far beyond our abilities as to seem aliens or objects (periscopes, perhaps).
Also, there is something about these films which seems to belong to another time, although though they are quite recent. Perhaps it is just the fact that they seem completely separate from our new multi-tasking customs. Marker focuses on one thing and doesn’t get distracted.
Chat écoutant la musique
An owl is an owl is an owl
If you have now become curious about how far an owl can swivel its head, look at this:
Chaplinesque lamp post
Chaplinesque lamp post 2
1000-fin swimming tree
Water spirit haunted house
House about to move house
Water with muscle fibres
Water brush strokes
Point your camera at a reflection in a canal or a river, flip the image around and see what a liquid world looks like. Trees try to float up into the sky, lamp-posts become Chaplinesque, railings grope around corners, fish pass by windows and houses breathe in and out.
Berlin, Altes Museum, Egyptian Section
I don’t think anyone else has organised a gymnastics competition for angels. Here you can see some of the top contenders in action…
Some time ago I posted an article on my liking for random walks, in which I outlined an insanely complicated method to get to places you weren’t planning to see. Recently I found another way to go to randomly explore the world, without getting up from my chair.
A few days ago, as I was preparing to leave for Prague, I tried to find some information on the city’s railway station. I can’t remember why, I have been to so many places (at least virtually) since then. I happened on a page with a 360 degree spherical picture of Fantova kavárna or Fanta’s Café, originally the main hall of the station as it was built in 1871 by the architect Josef Fanta. The picture was on a website called 360cities.net which, I have discovered, is a wonderful tool for random travelling.
I soon ended up in other places in Prague, my favourites I think being the Bethlehem Chapel, a medieval crane and the wonderful Strahov library, where the picture is so detailed that I am quite confident that I will one day spot a bookworm about to take a bite out of one of the ancient volumes. Read more…
I keep on walking past this hoarding half-way down via Giulia, in the one ugly spot on one of Rome’s most beautiful streets. I always wonder, “Is this Rome’s new traffic plan?” Because that’s what it says at the bottom: Rome – Traffic and Mobility Action Plan.
And I wonder “When is this going to start? It looks exciting. Am I ready for it? What is going to happen?” Read more…
When I was a child, my family used to travel from Britain to Italy most summers to stay with my Italian grand-parents. Every time we crossed the Channel I was sick. I was given all kinds of advice, sometimes from other passengers, and I tried hard to apply their methods. I remember “stare at the horizon and don’t look at the waves” and “bend your head to the right every time there is a swell”. There was a different method every time but none of them worked. There was never a ferry on which I wasn’t sick. Once I thought I had succeeded in making the crossing unscathed but I threw up when we were only about fifty yards out from the harbour.
Perhaps this is why I became so fond of trains. Getting on in Calais or Boulogne was salvation. I fell in love with the sounds, the rhythm, the wild swinging as you passed from carriage to carriage. And I remember how much I liked the landscape of the North of France. And the grime and soot of the Gare du Nord in Paris. And the prospect of buying a soft drink called Pschitt! from a platform vendor. (In French it is supposed to suggest the sound made when you open a fizzy drink bottle, but to the ears of a very young English boy it sounded much more excitingly outrageous).
Since then I have been on trains on four continents and a lot of those trips have been among my best travel experiences.So I was delighted to come across an article in Salon magazine entitled “The Irresistible Appeal of the Train Movie” , which discussed the best film sequences with trains. Number one on the list was Days of Heaven, a film I liked a lot, but to be honest I didn’t remember the opening sequence below.
Can you identify this painting? It looks very old and very damaged. It seems to represent an aqueduct.
Let’s try taking a step backwards.
A city with two stubby, semi-Oriental towers, a clumsy whale, three boats, mansions which seem to be subsiding on a water front. Everything is a bit crooked and murky. It doesn’t look very good, to be honest. Except for that wonderful ship on the left-hand side.
The April 19 issue of the New Yorker had an interesting article by Lauren Collins on the American photographer George Steinmetz. His speciality is taking pictures from a motorised paraglider which he flies low and slow (27 mph is the one speed it has). With it he can get the angles which he wants, whereas “trying to get a pilot to put a plane exactly where you want it is like trying to get someone else to scratch an itch”.
The picture above is of a salt-making site at the village of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt in northern Niger. Read more…