Ken and Canaletto

Ken Small, 84, who lives near Darlington in County Durham, worked as a mechanic until he retired aged 65, at which point he realized his true calling was painting.Ken Small.jpg
Here is Ken Small proudly posing next to his own life-size version of ‘Venice’ by 18th Century Italian artist Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697 – 1768), better known as Canaletto.

Ken Small Canaletto

Ken or Canaletto?

Couldn’t resist the article about talented Ken.


Women Of The World And Kurt Vonnegut’s Wife

This post was previously published on March 8, 2013. Today is year another March 8th, International Women’s Day…

Although barely noticed in the good old US of A, March 8th is celebrated around the world as the International Women’s Day. Good old Google, bless its loopy heart, celebrates International Women’s Day with a doodle of women from around the world, have you noticed?

Millions of Russian women – as far as I remember back when I used to be one – celebrate this day as it were yet another Valentine’s Day, invented exclusively for women – mothers, wives, lovers, friends. Flowers, attention and token gifts are expected from husbands, sons, boyfriends, classmates, coworkers and, generally, all those who – for one reason or another — sometimes, without any reason whatsoever — consider themselves MEN of at least 5 years of age with no upper limit. Women’s working conditions, struggle for equal pay, and nearly everything else that this day was designated to become since early 1900’s, gets often forgotten or relinquished to the effort of activists.

All pretty flowers and Umberto Tozzi crooning something sweet with the refrain “Te Amo” – the heart-melting words of love…

vonnegut lettersNow then, what Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., one of my favorite writers, has to do with any of it? Well, it might seem rather far-fetched, tenuous  connection at best, but at certain time of his life, Kurt Vonnegut behaved like your ordinary Russian husband on March 8th…

3 days ago, a book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, edited by Dan Wakefield, came out. In it, very early on, because it is dated January 26, 1947, there is a hilarious document… Take a look. If your sense of humor is comparable to that of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and, well, mine, then you’d get a kick out of it too. Very fittingly, I’ve got the book today, March the 8th, on the International Woman’s Day. The text below is a courtesy of the Harper’s Magazine — the excerpt from the book was published in October of last year.



v3And purely for fun, I’ll throw in another Women’s Day Russian clip, featuring Russian men in various stages of dishabille, wishing women everywhere Happy Women’s Day and hoping to impress them with tastefully (or not) decorated areas below their waists. The lyrics  of the song… is unimaginative at best. Turn off the sound if it annoys you.

Please be warned that flowers and various props notwithstanding, a few male bare bottoms with no adornment whatsoever might be observed.

World Writers Day

Paper_Sculptures_Jeff_Nishinaka1.jpgThe World Writers Day is celebrated annually on March 3 since 1986. It was established by the International Congress of PEN Club.

The International PEN Club is a worldwide association of writers founded in London in 1921, in order to promote friendship and intellectual support among writers from all the corners of the world. The name for the organization was created from the first letters of the words “Poets, Essayists and Novelists,” but indeed it includes writers of all the forms of literature, including journalists and historians.

The idea to create such organization belongs to the English writer Catherine Amy Dawson Scott and its first president was John Galsworthy. Nowadays the International PEN Club has its centers in over 130 countries. The International PEN Club is the oldest global literary organization that emphasizes the role of literature in the development of the world culture, fighting for the liberty of expression.


Ikigai. The Craft of Happiness

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Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being“. Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.

Ikigai is composed of 2 Japanese words:

  • Iki referring to the concept of life;
  • Kai, roughly, means realization of one’s expectations and hopes.

The Japanese island of Okinawa is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Any wonder ikigai has its origins in Okinawa?

While researching the topic of ikigai, the authors of a new book on the movement,   Héctor García and Francesc Miralles lived among the people of Okinawa.

Héctor García is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade, and of Spain, where he was born. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan, where he developed voice recognition software and the technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market. He is the creator of the popular blog and the author of A Geek in Japan, a #1 bestseller in Japan.

Francesc Miralles is an award-winning author who has written a number of bestselling self-help and inspirational books. Born in Barcelona, he studied journalism, English literature, and German, and has worked as an editor, a translator, a ghost-writer, and a musician. His novel Love in Lowercase has been translated into twenty languages.

The book claiming to teach you the ways of achieving happiness and a longer life

In their book, Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Garcia and Miralles discern the ten golden rules of Okinawans’ ikigai.  It seems so easy to find one’s own ikigai!  (Note: The images below are not from the book.)
The Ten Rules of Ikigai:


 1. Stay active and don’t retire


2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life

Image result for не есть много картинки

3. Only eat until you are 80 per cent full


 4. Surround yourself with good friends


5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise

ikigai. 6

6. Smile and acknowledge people around you

ikigai. 7

7. Reconnect with nature

ikigai. 8

8. Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.

ikigai. 9

9. Live in the moment

ikigai. 10

10. Follow your ikigai


Bitcoin According to Natalya Kaspersky

N. Kaspersky.PNG

Natalya Ivanovna Kasperskaya, branded Kaspersky in the West, is a Russian IT entrepreneur, President of the ‘InfoWatch’ group of companies and co-founder and ex-CEO of antivirus security software company ‘Kaspersky Lab’. Photo: Sergei Bobulev/TASS

A bit over а month ago, Natalya Kaspersky gave a rare interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda, following her presentation entitled “Modern technologies – the basis for information and cyber-wars” at ITMO University in St. Petersburg, where ITMO stands for the Saint-Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics.

What follows, is a compilation of excerpts from both Ms. Kaspersky’s interview and presentation. Translation, interpretation and hyperlinks, where appropriate, are mine.

“In the last two years we constantly, in closed mode, encounter a large number of specialists in cryptography, cryptocurrencies, digital money. Most of them are merely enthusiasts and “evangelists” of the blockchain. They love this new world, they expect to work in it, achieve some remarkable results — in a word, to change the world.

However, all of the above, nevertheless, converge on several basic provisions:

  • The architecture of bitcoin was described in the White paper of American intelligence long before the appearance of the mythical Satoshi Nakamoto;
  • Both the texts and code of “Satoshi Nakamoto” are overflowing with Americanisms. This is typical American product — experts easily determine the country-specific programming style, the tools used, the programming code design, as well as English language used in the technical notes and comments;
  • The very implementation of bitcoin (design and programming) is a huge undertaking. Obviously, this wasn’t created by a lone genius, but by a group of highly professional cryptographers over several years — there are many man-years invested, no doubt.

“Now then, where can a group of professional American cryptographers work for several years, why and whatever for? Where do you think expert cryptographers work these days? What kind of jobs they have? Obviously, they work predominantly in various special services agencies.

“However, one shouldn’t be spooked by it. After all, many new technologies that came to us from the US — GPS, TOR, and actually the Internet itself — are USA military developments that eventually were commercialized and made available “to the masses”.

“Obviously, this is advantageous: you invest military money and military intelligence, then commercialize, thereby supporting private American companies and developing their business. Take TOR as an example, the military system originally developed as communication tool for spies. It was privatized and released, and then Chinese dissidents crowded in, and crime followed close behind —  drugs deals, weapon sales, child porn, contract killings…

“Might as well, the bitcoin story was a similar one. Of course, this is an assumption, but not nearly as far fetched…

“It’s not only about bitcoin, though. I think that the entire infrastructure of the blockchain and cryptocurrency has been developed in the USA. Control over cryptocurrencies can be achieved through the creation of super-corporations with super-technologies in key locations, as was the case with the Internet, and also through stock markets, startup funding etc. And what country is doing better in this regard than USA — in the Valley and beyond”.

“Bitcoin is a project of American intelligence agencies, which was designed to provide quick funding for U.S., British, and Canadian intelligence activities in different countries. [The technology] is ‘privatized,’ just like the internet, GPS, and TOR. In fact, it is ‘Dollar 2.0’. Its rate is controlled by the owners of exchanges.”

Ms. Kaspersky talks about risks following development of blockchain technologies and bitcoin as currency.

  • Is it possible to control the circulation of money within the country?
  • Is transparency of transactions ensured?
  • Is there any influence of the government on the exchange rate?

The answers to all three questions are negative. Bitcoin currency is not tied to any country or government, thus regulated by no one. Transparency of transactions in bitcoin is nonexistent — it is impossible to establish reliably who pays to whom. This goes against the trend of transparency of transactions around the world. And, finally, the bitcoin stock price is based solely on the expectations and enthusiasm of speculators,  hoping to make money on a “new financial instrument,” while bitcoin is traded on foreign exchanges.

Further, Ms. Kaspersky’s interview is becoming more “country-specific”. She explores the numerous pitfalls and dangers of bitcoin/blockchain for Russia and its economic trends. If interested, look for the original interview, in Russian, here.


Bone Deep Erotica

Erotica (according to Wikipedia) is any artistic work that deals substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing subject matter. All forms of art may depict erotic content, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature.  But X-ray?

A couple of years ago, the Japanese company Eizo that designs and manufactures computer monitors, released an unusual “side product” — erotic calendar. Free of charge, numerous copies of X-erotica were shipped to clinics across the globe, to accompany an advertizing brochure introducing a new line of  X-ray monitores. Eizo’s marketing fit was a success. The “bone bunnies” calendar even participated in a prestigious Communication Arts Advertising Competition.













Source: Amusing Planet


Meet St. Valentine

The new scans contradict previous reconstructions of the Patron Saint of Love, which have typically suggested he was an older man of affluence

The real face of Saint Valentine may have finally been revealed thanks to new 3D scans of the Patron Saint of Love’s skull. Digital reconstructions reveal the Italian Saint had a strong jawline and died a young man when he was killed on February 14, 269 AD.

The new scans contradict previous reconstructions of the Patron Saint of Love, which have typically suggested he was an older man of affluence.

Interesting article abut the digital reconstruction of Saint Valentine’s physique (if you really want to know how he looked like) with more pictures and video is here:  Is this the face of Saint Valentine? 3D reconstruction of the Patron Saint of Love’s skull .

Happy Valentine!



Salvador Dalí: 2 works up for auction

Cropped image of Maison Pour Érotomane, one of the paintings by Salvador Dalí.

 Cropped image of Maison Pour Érotomane, one of the paintings by Salvador Dalí. Photograph: © Salvador Dali. Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, DACS 2011

The Guardian reports that 2 important paintings by Spanish surrealist  Salvador Dalí , sold to Argentinian countess in 1930s, is up for auction. Countess de Cuevas de Vera, nicknamed Tota, who divided her time between Buenos Aires and France and became friends with many artists and cultural figures active in 1920s and 30s Paris, including Luis Buñuel, with whom she had an affair, as well as Dalí, Picasso, and Jean Cocteau (with whom she might or might not had affairs).

Both works are highly charged and packed with symbolism. The earliest, entitled Gradiva (1931), depicts a mythological figure and character from a 1903 novel by Wilhelm Jensen, in which a young archaeologist becomes obsessed by a female figure shown in a Roman bas-relief. It was a story used by Sigmund Freud as a study of the idealization of beauty and notions of love. Gradiva was also the nickname Dalí gave to his wife, Gala.

Gradiva, which Dalí painted in 1931.

Gradiva, which Dalí painted in 1931. Photograph: © Salvador Dali. Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, DACS 2011

The other work is entitled Maison Pour Érotomane (1932), (House For Erotomaniac). By all appeance, it is a strange, hallucinatory, work which shows a cello, horse and car emerging from a rock. In the foreground is the artist himself and his wife Gala.

Bompard said the period when the two works were painted was a time when “Dalí became himself”.

Both of the paintings were acquired by the countess and passed through her family. Gradiva has been lent only once, to an exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the 1980s; Maison Pour Érotomane has not been seen publicly since the 1930s. Each artwork has an estimated value of between £1.2m and £1.8m and will appear at auction at Sotheby’s, London, on 28 February.

“These are the kind of painting that I do my job for,” said Thomas Bompard, head of the impressionist and modern art evening sale. “They are a rediscovery. The quality is A plus plus plus … when you first see them and have to give a price you feel absolutely privileged to be the one to bring these gems to the market for the first time.”

Well then, someone might get lucky and purchase one or both of these artworks…


Top 100 Living Geniuses of 2007

robert the 1.jpgIn my previous post about the Ukrainian artist Ivan Marchuk, it was noted that he was included into the Top 100 Living Geniuses list.  Curious about the list, I checked it out.

Compiled in 2007, the list ranked the greatest living thinkers of our time, no less.

The list was compiled by a panel of six experts in creativity and innovation from Creators Synectics, a global consultants firm.

The company emailed 4,000 Britons in the summer of 2007 asking them to nominate up to 10 living people they considered geniuses. Each nominee was then awarded scores out of ten against criteria which included: paradigm shifting; popular acclaim; intellectual power; achievement and cultural importance.   It comes as no  surprise that proportionately more Brits got nominated than people from other countries.

My understanding is that the 4000 Brits were chosen randomly and do not necessarily have any expertise in evaluating human genius.

Judge for yourself. Here is the 2007 genius list:

1= Albert Hoffman (Swiss) Chemist 27
1= Tim Berners-Lee (British) Computer Scientist 27
3 George Soros (American) Investor & Philanthropist 25
4 Matt Groening (American) Satirist & Animator 24
5= Nelson Mandela (South African) Politician & Diplomat 23
5= Frederick Sanger (British) Chemist 23
7= Dario Fo (Italian) Writer & Dramatist 22
7= Steven Hawking (British) Physicist 22
9= Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian) Architect 21
9= Philip Glass (American) Composer 21
9= Grigory Perelman (Russian) Mathematician 21
12= Andrew Wiles (British) Mathematician 20
12= Li Hongzhi (Chinese) Spiritual Leader 20
12= Ali Javan (Iranian) Engineer 20
15= Brian Eno (British) Composer 19
15= Damian Hirst  (British) Artist 19
15= Daniel Tammet (British) Savant & Linguist 19
18 Nicholson Baker (American Writer 18
19 Daniel Barenboim (N/A) Musician 17
20= Robert Crumb (American) Artist 16
20= Richard Dawkins (British) Biologist and philosopher 16
20= Larry Page & Sergey Brin (American) Publishers 16
20= Rupert Murdoch (American) Publisher 16
20= Geoffrey Hill (British) Poet 16
25 Garry Kasparov (Russian) Chess Player 15
26= The Dalai Lama (Tibetan) Spiritual Leader 14
26= Steven Spielberg (American) Film maker 14
26= Hiroshi Ishiguro (Japanese) Roboticist 14
26= Robert Edwards (British) Pioneer of IVF treatment 14
26= Seamus Heaney (Irish) Poet 14
31 Harold Pinter (British) Writer & Dramatist 13
32= Flossie Wong-Staal (Chinese) Bio-technologist 12
32= Bobby Fischer (American) Chess Player 12
32= Prince (American) Musician 12
32= Henrik Gorecki (Polish) Composer 12
32= Avram Noam Chomski (American) Philosopher & linguist 12
32= Sebastian Thrun (German) Probabilistic roboticist 12
32= Nima Arkani Hamed (Canadian) Physicist 12
32= Margaret Turnbull (American) Astrobiologist 12
40= Elaine Pagels (American) Historian 11
40= Enrique Ostrea (Philippino) Pediatrics & neonatology 11
40= Gary Becker (American) Economist 11
43= Mohammed Ali (American) Boxer 10
43= Osama Bin Laden  (Saudi) Islamicist 10
43= Bill Gates (American) Businessman 10
43= Philip Roth (American) Writer 10
43= James West (American) Invented the foil electrical microphone 10
43= Tuan Vo-Dinh (Vietnamese) Bio-Medical Scientist 10
49= Brian Wilson (American) Musician 9
49= Stevie Wonder (American) Singer songwriter 9
49= Vint Cerf (American) Computer scientist 9
49= Henry Kissinger (American) Diplomat and politician 9
49= Richard Branson (British) Publicist 9
49= Pardis Sabeti (Iranian) Biological anthropologist 9
49= Jon de Mol (Dutch) Television producer 9
49= Meryl Streep (American) Actress 9
49= Margaret Attwood (Canadian) Writer 9
58= Placido Domingo (Spanish) Singer 8
58= John Lasseter (American) Digital Animator 8
58= Shunpei Yamazaki (Japanese) Computer scientist & physicist 8
58= Jane Goodall (British) Ethologist & Anthropologist 8
58= Kirti Narayan Chaudhuri (Indian) Historian 8
58= John Goto (British) Photographer 8
58= Paul McCartney (British) Musician 8
58= Stephen King (American) Writer 8
58= Leonard Cohen (Canadian) Poet & musician 8
67= Aretha Franklin (American) Musician 7
67= David Bowie (British) Musician 7
67= Emily Oster (American) Economist 7
67= Steve Wozniak (American) Engineer and co-founder of Apple Computers 7
67= Martin Cooper (American) Inventor of the cell phone 7
72= George Lucas (American) Film maker 6
72= Niles Rogers (American) Musician 6
72= Hans Zimmer (German) Composer 6
72= John Williams (American) Composer 6
72= Annette Baier (New Zealander) Philosopher 6
72= Dorothy Rowe (British) Psychologist 6
72= Ivan Marchuk  (Ukrainian) Artist & sculptor 6
72= Robin Escovado (American) Composer 6
72= Mark Dean (American) Inventor & computer scientist 6
72= Rick Rubin (American) Musician & producer 6
72= Stan Lee (American) Publisher 6
83= David Warren (Australian) Engineer 5
83= Jon Fosse (Norwegian) Writer & dramatist
83= Gjertrud Schnackenberg (American) Poet 5
83= Graham Linehan (Irish) Writer & dramatist 5
83= JK Rowling (British) Writer 5
83= Ken Russell (British) Film maker 5
83= Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (Russian) Small arms designer 5
83= Erich Jarvis (American) Neurobiologist 5
91=. Chad Varah (British) Founder of Samaritans 4
91= Nicolas Hayek (Swiss) Businessman and founder of Swatch 4
91= Alastair Hannay (British) Philosopher 4
94= Patricia Bath (American) Ophthalmologist
94= Thomas A. Jackson (American) Aerospace engineer 3
94= Dolly Parton (American) Singer 3
94= Morissey (British) Singer 3
94= Michael Eavis (British) Organiser of Glastonbury 3
94= Ranulph Fiennes (British) Adventurer 3
100=. Quentin Tarantino (American) Filmmaker 2

Honestly, I was slightly disappointed to find Damian Hirst, whose “art” I abhor, pretty high on the list. That is to say nothing about, of all people, Osama bin Laden, categorized as an Islamicist by occupation

I don’t know whether or not The Telegraph attempted to engage Creators Synectics to compile similar lists between 2007 and now, and if yes, then what some randomly chosen 4000 Brits decided.  The world and Brits have changed since.



Meet The Artist: Ivan Marchuk

7marchukHe is compared to Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Pavel Filonov, called “maestro of the highest prestige”, Rembrandt of our days. Not always even fully comprehending his works, people are drawn to them. Who is the genius of the brush?Фото Артема Слипачука 14.01.16 Ретроспективная выставка украинского художника Ивана Марчука "Генотип вольности"Ivan Marchuk  is the only Ukrainian artist recognized by International Academy of Modern Art in Rome as the member of the “Golden Guild”1119811_418551861588210_1741091697_oIvan Marchuk was born in 1936, a family of a weaver, in a Western Ukrainian village. He studied applied art in Lviv till 1965.
11227590_738911496218910_4491635807679922221_oThe artist works tirelessly to create his own pictorial style. He finds inspiration in the most ordinary things.11722633_737923666317693_6483948075264244944_oIn the late 1980s he emigrated to Australia, then traveled to Canada and the USA. But, he was always drawn back to his native land.

“I have to see beauty everywhere, and I want to recreate it. Nowhere in the world is there such a beautiful land as here.” 
892609_418537621589634_278641119_o“Give me a thousand more years and I’ll paint heaven.”
1119835_418537648256298_1861480121_oHe has created his own art technique, which he calls “Pliontanism”  (from the Ukrainian “pliontaty” – to weave, knit). Instead of painting with the usual strokes, he traces and weaves amazing lace networks on his canvas.“There were times when people stood in front of a painting for half an hour. It’s abstract, but it’s done with the hands of a skilled jeweler. We sense a 3D effect. says Maksym Voloshyn.After years of intensive work, Ivan Marchuk admits that art is both a revelation and a lot of hard work. He dreams of resting and relaxing, but returns to his studio every morning.Иван Марчук“If you look at a painting from a distance, you’ll see an ordinary landscape, but when you come a little closer, you notice that unusual threads are woven throughout the painting.” says  Maksym Voloshyn, director of Mystetska Zbirka Art Gallery.In October 2007, Marchuk was included in Britain’s list of  top living geniuses, drawn up by the Daily Telegraph. This curious list, however, deserves its own post…