In a complete deviation from my usual content, I'd like to share some incredible pictures of Russia from 100 years ago which I just stumbled upon over at The Boston Globe.

Between 1909 and 1912, a photographer by the name of Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii used a revolutionary new system in which three monochrome photos were taken in quick succession, each with a red, green or blue filter. Putting the three (glass) plates on top of one another created these stunning pictures.

It's impossible to judge the age of these pictures from their quality. And it completely boggles my mind to think that the people featured, even the children, may have grown up to have children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren and so on.

It's worth viewing the full article here, as it's completely fascinating. But here's a few of the 36 pictures featured.

I wonder who he grew up to be...

Even history had its history...

If you look really closely, you can see the ripples in the water are different colours, due to their movement between the stages of process mentioned above...

I love this picture. The water looks so smooth, almost as if it's ice. Probably a byproduct of the photography technique again.

The detail in this image is staggering.

Look closely - some of the people in the background moved between the three pictures being taken. Little imperfections like this show just how precise the process was in order to have taken such crystal-clear clarity in the rest of the picture.

(All images are out of copyright, but reproduced here with thanks to The Boston Globe and the LOC)


I was thinking. Sometimes, when you distill the big decisions or themes in your life down to their very very beginnings, they can seem quite ridiculously trivial. I thought I'd share today the specific circumstances that actually started me out on my fascination with Japan...

A good few years ago, me and Louise had just started getting into martial arts films after watching a few good ones (House Of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hero). When we came across an Amazon voucher, we thought we'd use it on another, similar DVD.

My job involves making TV listings magazines and film guides, so I tend to be fairly clued-up on movies, and one which I'd heard about and was hoping to see soon was Ong-Bak - the Thai film starring Tony Jaa. For some bizarre reason, instead we elected to go for an animation called Spirited Away - something we'd both only vaguely heard about but heard it was kinda quirky and very good. A quick *click* and it's ours - I remember hoping I don't regret it...

It arrived on a Friday, and we watched it that night. It was nothing like anything either of us had - ever - seen before. It's sheer unaldulturated genius. I got in touch with our (work's) film critic and asked him for similar titles, and he informed me that Spirited Away was made by a company called Studio Ghibli, and he provided me with a list of some of their other highlights. Christmas came, and I tracked some of them down for Louise's stocking. By the next Christmas, I think we'd got just about all of them! We're complete addicts.

Funnily enough, Studio Ghibli, through its fantastical, magical worlds, actually gave us a reason to delve further into the very real aspects of Japan and other Japanese films, cartoons, manga, culture, food, etc.

We joked about going to the Ghibli Museum. We didn't know that just a short while later, we'd actually be going...

It's interesting to consider that if we had gone for Ong-Bak instead (I subsequently saw it: it was ok; good, not great) I may not have ever gone to Tokyo or eaten ramen or listened to Macdonald Duck Eclair or read GTO or anything fun like that!

I've got a new Blogger client for my phone, so I'm hoping this post comes out okay.

Last night being Bonfire Night, we went to a fireworks display put on by a local charitable organisation called the Beverley Lions. They do it every year on the Westwood, a historic common pasture on the edge of town, and every year I'm surprised by how good they are (and how busy it is!).

The bonfire was lit by the time we got there, and we just had enough time to queue for some chips (which were really good) before the display starts with a BIG bang.

They were stunning, so naturally i tried to take some pictures, and naturally they came out really badly. But don't take my word for it, judge for yourself!

A recent trip to York saw me in a craft shop. Nothing unusual about that - Catface is a very crafty lass, so we spend ages picking up supplies for her business - but this time, I thought I'd treat myself to something. I've never really had any ability with art whatsoever (my hands are the hand-equivalent of tone deaf, as to which my atrocious handwriting will attest) but I do enjoy calligraphy, even though I don't count myself as any good.

The shop in which we found ourselves had a large selection of Chinese and Japanese brushes of all shapes and sizes, so I selected a small-ish squirrel-hair brush that seemed to feel right and speak to me. I know that may sound strange, but there's a great quote from about brush selection, which I hope they don't mind me copying here:
"In the west, a brush is considered simply a tool for self-expression; it needs little character of its own ... In the East, however, there is a tradition of treating artists' materials as friends, rather than as slaves to artistic expression. Artwork is a cooperative process that involves the unique characteristics of the tool as well as those of the artist."
Certainly, I have no truck with Western art, so maybe this approach will suit me better. It definitely makes a change to hold an artistic implement that feels natural and comfortable, so already I'm ahead of where I've been before.

In the past I've used my calligraphy set to write kana characters, but that's not really all that it's made for. This time, I decided to be more ambitious, and try kanji (which I can't really read yet), in cursive style (which is possibly silly of me since I definitely can't read cursive!). I had a think about what to try, and I settled on the phrase "water's sound", which is the last line from a Basho poem I like.

I really enjoyed making it in the end. Although this is just a rough draft (I'd quite like to put it on three canvas blocks once I'm confident enough), I think it's come out looking quite cool. Although since I can't really read Japanese, I'm probably not the best judge... Anyway, this - I hope - is Mizu no Oto:

I'd really love to hear some opinions. I'm genuinely not fishing for compliments or anything - if you happen to be able to read Japanese and could tell me where I'm going right/wrong, I'd very much appreciate it!