Link to DT’s ART Blog

My energy in blogging terms went into my ART Blog, from November 25 of 2015 thru January 15, 2016 with daily postings here  

It has been static for 3 months at this point and likely revive in May, 2016.

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Amazing book on the Gothic World

Gothic: Imagery of the Middles Ages 1150-1500 Hardcover
by Achim Bednorz (Author), Rolf Toman (Editor)
H.F.Ullmann Publishing Gmbh (October 15, 2012), 568 pages.
gothic-cover 3.2 x 13.2 x 17.2 inches, Shipping Weight: 16 pounds

I’ve seen many fine books on European art and architecture of this period and this is just one of the finest I’ve ever come across. Thes book is truly a beautiful, engaging work.

The publisher has spared no effort to provide us with wonderfully large and detailed photographs rich in colour, finely composed and delightful to examine, page after page.

I borrowed this from our city library and am enjoying it tremendously. If you have even

a passing interest in the mediaeval world, you will really enjoy reading this book and

luxuriating in the inspiring work of so many superb artists, craftspersons and builders

done hundreds of years ago.

The 3 images I’m posting will provide you with some idea of the scale of the pictures, next to an iPhone 4.



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Alan’s War.

By Emmanuel Guibert. Roaring Books Press. English edition 2008. New York.


AlansWarThe quality of the illustrations first caught my attention when I scanned the graphic novel shelves in our local library branch. I anticipated that a war biography might hold my attention – I have been  watching the Ken Burns PBS series on the American civil war – so I picked it up.

I really enjoyed this book and belive it is remarkable and rich work.

It reads like an autobiography. It was developed from conversations during Alan’s late retirement years in France. We are pulled us into the story and eventually we can’t easily put it down. The story begins with his enlistment in WWII as a young man and grows in significance and complexity , engaging our feelings and attention through the various twists and turns of circumstance throughout his life during the war and after. It conveys a real life as lived: opportunities are taken, or missed.

The fragmented nature of life is an underlying aspect of this narrative. This is no tale of violent military experiences. Few shots are fired. It is more about whom Alan meets, about how friendships grow, about separations, regrets and reconnections. It is about how one person reponded to challenging circumstances. It is about the times he took risks, the times he changed course, the times he had to let things go.

People come and go during his life. Relationships form and shift. Odd things happen which are not something you can explain, or even want to explain – perhaps a vision during night manouevers, or an occassion when he helped a war orphan. It shows us how Alan transformed over time from and American foot-soldier eventually into a thoughtful, erudite European-American living abroad in France.

Certainly, this book is a fine example of what a graphic novel can do. The superb black and white inked images are integral to the pacing and development of character, mood, locale. The images really help to engage our feelings about events and people portrayed. The way this material is presented is deeply engaging and essential to our enjoyment and to our understanding of the man’s life.

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Caravaggio; a life sacred and profane


by Andrew Graham-Dixon. Penguin. 2011. 444 pages. Colour illustrations. footnotes, index, notes on further readings. Paperback.

Caravaggio’s life appears to confirm that maxim attributed to Heraclitus:  “Character is Destiny”.

There are few artists in history who had such brilliant abilities, strong vision and great opportunities to make their mark on the world as had this man, yet Caravaggio could not contain his destructive passions and they eventually overtook him.

Graham-Dixon has a keen and  sympathetic approach to the artist and his works. The book contains fulsome and thoughtful discussions about what was being painted, and why it had the effect it did on his viewers ( and on the subsequent the history of Western Art ). He brings to life the dangerous milieu of Rome with brawling gangs,  a fierce judicial system and all manner of vice and criminality.

He helps us understand the importance of the Counter-Reformation and the Pauperist strain of Catholicism which helped feed Caravaggio’s imaginative and explosive approach to his themes . Caravaggio showed the stories of Christianity as dramatic scenes played out not in palaces or with throngs of angels, but in the gritty world of the poor people of his time and place. In his  remarkable paintings he transformed prostitutes into saints and ruffians into apostles. It caused him much bitterness when early his career, some major works were initially rejected or taken down by his church patrons as just too shocking or not conventional enough for their buildings.  ( Although not wanted by some churches for public consumption, these paintings were typically snapped up by wealthy ecclesiastics or aristocrats for their private collections.)

When not painting, he was wont to prowl the streets of Rome at night whoring and getting into fights, so there were ruffians seeking revenge on the streets. He was protected by the powerful Colonna family and by Cardinal del Monte. He knew how to draw support from various powers in the Borghese papacy, through gifts of paintings to the right people. He knew he could count on them to support him and pushed the limits of that support when apprehended by the law.

Through much of his later period Caravaggio was a man on the run.  Graham-Dixon has gone the extra mile to ferret out what he most likely did to create enemies and cause himself anguish. The whole amazing story of his exploits on and after  Malta is one I leave the future reader to discover for themselves.

This was a moving book to read for its expositions on Roman society of the time, on the magnificent paintings of Caravaggio and finally as a truly tragic study of human folly.







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Party Of One: Stephen Harper And Canada’s Radical Makeover

by Michael Harris, Viking, 2014, 576 pages.

Thharper_oneis is a thorough, muckraking exposition of the operations of the partisan, reactionary Harper government and its attempts to remake Canada through every manipulative tool possible during its mandate.

They have carried out many egregious actions which essentially subvert parliamentary democracy, override safeguards, attack not just opponents, but anyone who does not support exactly what Harper wants to hear. You can read about them here.

You might also want to read customer reviews at

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From the Internet – Free contemporary music .

fmaLogoI was viewing a 5-minute clip by the University of Maryland’s Art History program and at the end they gave credits for six pieces of music they had used. Digging a little deeper, I found the site called Their music is by musicians all over the world, and the archive is huge ( eg. 10,000 folk pieces alone ).

Here’s part of their blurb on “About”:

The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America. Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet. It was launched in 2009.

This image gives some idea of the breadth of their offerings:


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From the Internet – The digitizable past is found here !

Archive Org’s Site – something for absolutely everybody

ArchiveOrgLogo ArchiveOrg

This  is a monster  resource for many, many amazing old things. Defintely worth exploring. It has kind of a quirky interface. Try using the general icons at top left, then selecting all and choosing details from the right-hand sidebar. Here’s taste of what’s there:

video icon –> 2,000,000 video items such as these

  • 3749 videos of the Daily Show or
  • 1700 movie trailers

speaker icon –> 2,569,783 audio items, such as these

  • 2400 Old Time Radio shows or
  • 9,000 librivox talking books,

photo icon –> 1,000,000 images, including these Continue reading

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From the Internet – Tom Gauld’s notebook Flickr pages

Cartoonist Tom Gauld’s Flickr Site.

Tom Gauld Flikr Site

Quirky, brilliant, over the top sketch book imaginings, sections of illustrated books, postcards and more . . .  visit

Also Tom’s web site is at:

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From the Internet – Amazing images every day

Amazing pictures every day

Horse head Nebula

Daily images from ‘Out There’ with brief explanations providing links to related information. Various ways to browse this material. I like the calendar option.


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Dancing with the Devil in the City of God

by Juliana Barbassa. Touchstone,2015. 308 pp. illus., index, map, bibliography.

DancingJuliana Barbassa was born in Rio de Janeiro, but grew up in several other lands. From the USA she felt drawn back to her country and city a few years ago, when major changes were happening in preparation for the 2014 World Soccer Cup. Her book is full of investigative insight, passion and personal concern. She really gets out there to report on the lives and struggles of many people with no voice . It did jump around a bit, but it’s a big topic to cover. From it we get a decent understanding of the major issues confronting the people of Rio. These same issues affect much of the world today. This ambitious book serves up some stark and terrible images of the realities on the ground.

Rio is a place of massive income disparity – think favelas; think hardened and ferocious police facing murderously brutal drug lords.

In 1994 the police stormed some of the principal gang-controlled favelas with tanks and helicopters. This is covered in detail in one chapter: “Fear and Heat”. At one point Barbassa describes a police raid filmed from TV helicopters and seen in continuous film loops afterwards

” One of the men [criminals], reduced to a tiny pixelated figure on the screen, took a bullet, stumbled and fell. This drew laughter from the cops [ in a pub with the author watching afterwards ] and shouts of “Perdue, playboy! Perdue!” This was bandido slang, the jeering refrain Cariocas often heard when they were held up for a wallet or a phone: You lose, playboy! You lose!” (p. 55)

This is a place where urban sprawl goes unchecked, where planners despair and politicians deceive and betray the poor at every turn. When the developers want some urban land they use all the levers of power and servile politicians to drive people off and take it over.

This is a giant city where ‘developments’ for the wealthy are destroying wildlife, trashing and polluting anything in their way, typically leaving a wrecked stinking mess just outside of their gated communities. We read of the lives of garbage pickers in the sprawling Gramacho dumps, where Barbassa goes to see for herself. We learn of the work of despairing wildlife biologists wading through sewage- and plastic-filled streams to record the effects on indigenous alligator species living in them.

We read of the Carioca river – centuries ago a pure source of drinking water for Rio. The author follows it back up to its source in a rain-forest mountain from the harbour below where it has been reduced to a sewer emptying untreated effluent into the harbour.

This is a place where bureaucracy is deadening and pervasive and where it is very hard to do anything. Worse yet, the government just does not care about the poor. When massive rains start bringing down the sides of mountains crushing villages, hundreds of people are killed and injured. But clearly they have only themselves to rely on and expect little or nothing from those in power.

For example: ” Two years later I visited again. None of the five thousand homes promised by the state’s governor and financed with federal money had been built. This was bewildering to me, but the residents shrugged it off. They had no time or energy to waste clamoring for help that wouldn’t come, at least not in this lifetime. …” ( p. 112 )

In contrast there is the ‘party-party’ life of the masses of tourists and locals who service tourism. There are even some progressive social changes and policies which push up against very reactionary social realities. Barbassa investigates the improved, but still very tough and marginal lives of some transvestite prostitutes in Rio, for example. She goes and talks with some of the women in the sex trade about their experiences.

There have been impressive efforts by some favela communities to face down the monied interests that want to pave them over or put in condominia and the writer gets in on the ground to record some of this process. There have been some partial successes in driving out drugs and criminal gangs from some favelas, but people living there do not trust the authorities. Again the author is on the ground doing interviews and observing life on the street.

The book ends with a message about the effects of Rio hosting the World Soccer games.

“But they were learning, at great cost, that massive sporting events have short-term objectives and tight deadlines that do not mesh well with long-term city planning goals. In Rio, contracts bound resoureces to the needs of external organizations, creating a permanent state of exception that left no room or time for debate, consideration or braoader needs, or the reform of flawed institutions. On the contraruy, these pressures reinforced the existing hierarchies; the rush to kickoff or the torch lighting justified the further concentration of power and shorteneed decision-making processes.” P. 258

I think the author is cautiously hopeful that Rio and Brazil will learn from the social results of the 2014 FIFA cup contest before the 2016 Olympic games. After reading this book, I am not at all expecting things to improve. I think Rio will become a poster-child as the failed city of our times.

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