31st Week of 2016 : THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

These are a few of my favorite things.
–Julie Andrews, THE SOUND OF MUSIC

As we get older, and see more revolutions of our world around our sun, hopefully we get wiser, and have from our experiences some wisdom to impart to those coming after us. Or wisdom that we wish someone had imparted to us.

Here is some of the wisdom I have gained, in terms of things you can actually purchase. Some our mundane and simplistic and frivolous, some in their simplicity were life changing and life improving.

I leave it for you to decide which is which.

Here then in the 31st Week, and Two Thousand and Sixteenth Year of a vaunted Lord, are a few of my favorite things:

Let’s start off with music….

serendip

SONS OF SERENDIP is the self titled first album by a 4 part band, that was one of the few reasons I actually sat through a season of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (Season 9, for those of you playing at home). Their sound is nothing short of awe inspiring.

The CD goes in and out of print, I have multiple copies, and it has become one of my go to gifts to give friends and family and as stocking stuffers.

Sons of Serendip

lspirit

Speaking of music, this year my better half and I spent Valentine’s Day in New York. We were primarily there because I had gotten tickets to hear Grammy winning Gregory Porter play at the legendary and venerable TOWN HALL (built by Suffragites seeking the vote). His Grammy Winning album LIQUID SPIRIT is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I’m pleased to say in-person, backed by his fantastic band, and the energy of a fun crowd, he is even better. Fantastic performance and a fun experience.

Get the album here…

Liquid Spirit

Now leaving the pleasures of hearing for a second, let’s discuss taste…

zerowater10

THE ZERO WATER 10 CUP PITCHER – I have found to be, after much searching, the ideal affordable water purification system to implement. Its design eliminates the ‘flow-around’ concern of traditional faucet mounted systems such as PUR or BRITA, in addition providing an easy built in test of the filters effectiveness that the consumer can easily periodically try. Also the size of this particular 10 cup pitcher makes it ideal for placement in the refrigerator, as opposed to the more space consuming 23 cup variety. However Amazon reviewer JLJ (his review is one of the first ones that will pop-up when you use my links below) offers excellent advice for using both pitchers in concert to extend the life of the filters by up to 5 times. A pretty cool idea I plan to try.

Chief complaints with this pitcher seem to be by people who leave it on their counter rather than refrigerating it. Room temperature water seems silly, so mine is always refrigerated. And every 2 months it is washed out with a water vinegar solution. I’ve had no issues.

Now this one, is not rated to remove fluoride, which is something I would like a filter to remove. But aside from a much more expensive distiller I haven’t yet found a pitcher variety that is proven to remove fluoride. Though I’m still on the hunt, and when I find one, I’ll use it as the prefilter stage, before going into the ZeroWater filter. In fact Invigorated Life has a pitcher that is rated to remove fluoride and is currently on-sale at Amazon (link below) so I plan to order that and try JLJ’s pre-filter idea using that and my Zero-Filter pitcher.

But for right now I’m quite happy with the quality of water I’ve been getting out of Zero-Water, as opposed to my forays with Pur, Brita, American Distillers, and Aquasana.

It’s affordable and makes it easy for the consumer to test.

ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher

ZeroWater ZD-018 23-Cup Water Dispenser and Filtration System

Invigorated Living Alkaline Water Pitcher Ionizer, 2 Long-Life Filters Included, 118 Ounces, 3.5 litres, Alkaline Filtered Water Purifier Machine, High pH Natural Filtration System, Removes Toxins, Chlorine, Enhances Immunity & Optimizes Health (Blue)

I don’t have cable. Have not had cable bill for over a decade. I was a cord cutter before that term was even coined. Before streaming I was content with over the air TV and DVDs.

Now with streaming I’ve reduced my DVD forays a bit, as well as consuming shows via over the air TV (though my digital antennae remains an always ready and appreciated backup).

Roku, my Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and my Digital Antennae… allow me to have TV… on my schedule, my way, while still combined being a fraction of a cable bill, while offering to my mind much more diverse and enjoyable content.

roku3

Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model)

As far as Roku, I would recommend avoiding the Roku Stick as that uses WiFi Direct, to communicate with your remote. At least using Roku 3 you can disable WiFi Direct and use a simple IR remote. WiFi Direct creates a piggybacking, potentially insecure network, on top of your existing wi-fi network, which is a totally unnecessary use of bandwidth. I would also avoid using any of the remotes that come with a mic built in. It’s just a privacy nightmare waiting to happen.

Here’s a suitable, simple IR replacement remote:

Gvirtue Replacement Lost Remote Control 1 Year Warranty Compatible with Roku Models Roku 1 (Lt, Hd); Roku 2 (Xd, Xs); Roku 3 (Do NOT Support Roku Streaming Stick, Hdmi Stick and Game)

And leaving the joys of viewing for a second to get back to taste…

Since eliminating sugar from my diet, to include fruit juices (yes that means no orange or cranberry or apple juice) and reducing my daily intake of carbs to under a 100 grams (cutting out most breads, rice, pastas, processed and sugary foods), I feel so much better.

Which I understand is an over-used refrain, but it happens to in my case be true.

And weight gain, or more specifically fat gain, which in a really simple fashion is unused carbohydrates/sugar metabolizing into fat, that process is hampered, as your body is weaned of the excesses that go to fat. In a couple months of a low carb diet, I have begun losing weight even without the benefit of an exercise routine. Once I get back into the gym routine I fully expect the changes to be even more impressive.

So yeah I wish I knew decades ago, what I know now, that excess sugar and carbs, are not your friend.

In addition to water, one of my main drinks these days is unsweetened tea. A concept that only a few short months ago I considered wholly unpalatable. But while most sugar substitutes (malitol, sorbitol, isomalt, even xylitol) are problematic in their own right, there are a couple substitutes whose benefits outweigh their potential drawbacks. Stevia, a plan based sweetener that is one of those that is firing on all cylinders and really changing the game for those who want to avoid sugars corroding effects while still getting sweetness with their drinks.

Since using it in conjunction with unsweetened tea 1/I’m spending a ton less on flavored drinks and 2/ sugary drinks are one of the main ways you overdo it on carbs, so it greatly helps me stay under my 100 carb a day limit.

So a win/win.

Try it for yourself here:

SweetDrops Liquid Stevia 4oz

And I want to wrap up this installment with a few books that I was very happy to have, or add new copies of, in my collection in 2016:

Long before most people had heard the name Zdzislaw Beksinski, I was singing his praises. I still am. If you own only one artbook, make it this one.

fantasticartbeksinski

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski

Another artist that relatively no one has heard of is Phil Kutno. I discovered his stunning pencil work in 2015, and purchased four of his prints, and there hasn’t been a day in 2016 where I haven’t spent time admiring and soaking up those prints. Unfortunately he does not have an art book or any prints available via Amazon. (I’ve been trying to talk him into doing like a Director’s Commentary on one of his prints for the blog… still trying to make it happen :))

The Flood -2011

kutno2-350x350

In the interim you can get prints direct from him here:

http://www.philkutnostudios.com/

Another artist whose work had an astonishing and visceral effect on me was Graham Foster. In 2014 while in Bermuda I had the chance to see the mural he did for the Commissioner’s House (which is the house overlooking the beautiful port of Bermuda, a wonderful architectural structure, it is history in Masonry and beam and floor, the remnants of a colonial age, now dimmed) up close and in person. It is spread over multiple floors and is the history of Bermuda told in verdant hues.

hbermudacvr

hbermudaint3

hbermudaint

Even while walking up and down the steps to view this mammoth under taking, I was thinking…. ‘this needs to be in a book’. There was no way to consume what took him years to paint, in a quick tour of that historic house. Thankfully the artist collaborated with a writer, and made this massive mural, into a massive and informative book. I think it is one of the most essential art and history books of its kind.

And for the longest time upon returning to the states the book was not available anywhere. So nowadays whenever I come across a copy I buy it, as I like to give them out as presents when available, as well as having multiples in my own collection.

You can grab it for yourself while supplies last… here:

Hall of History Bermuda’s Story in Art

There are of course more of my favorite things to present, but that’s enough for this installment. Thanks for looking, and I hope I’ve helped to introduce you to your next…. favorite thing! 🙂

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Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

hourofprayer

Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

persian-empire-2

I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

edlordweeksml

Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.


Favorite/Best Art Books of 2011

This was a relatively easy list to decide on. My 3 favorite artbook purchases of 2011 were:

3. Zdzislaw Beksinski- I’m putting this on the list even though this isn’t a 2011 publication. Finally managed to pick up this 1992 English Language House Arkady (love that name) printing of BEKSINSKI.


2. SPECTRUM 18- Every year this annual showcase of the best of fantastic art, is a welcome purchase. And this year continues their streak.



1. REBUS- My number one artbook of 2011 comes from Chronicle Books, and is the drop dead gorgeous James Jean’s
REBUS. Having had this for a month I do not get tired of flipping though those stunning red gilded pages. The book is a work of art just in terms of design, even before you get to the art within, which is masterful, and beautiful, and disturbing. Just simply gorgeous. Trust me, If you at all have an interest in artbooks, you need to own this one. Highest recommendation.

There you go. Come back next installment as I start looking at 2012 artbooks to put on your must buy list! Price your copies by clicking on the links below:

Zdzislaw Beksinski

Spectrum 18: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art

Rebus

On Beksinski! Comparing the artbooks FANTASTIC ART and BEKSINSKI 1!

“In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh– whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish– thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.” –director Guillermo Del Toro

I’ve been singing the praise of Zdzislaw Beksinski since 1998 when Morpheus International introduced his art to those outside Poland by publishing THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI.

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art S.)


Twelve years later and Beksinski’s work is more well known to the point where there are films and filmmakers singing his praises, bands doing albums to him, and additional art books produced about him. Sad that this increased exposure couldn’t arrive while he was still alive.

However, that injustice aside, I’m glad the art books and product are, in the wake of his demise, finding an audience. The work of Beksinski deserves to… persist.

One recent art book is BEKSINSKI 1 by publisher Bosz Art. A 2009 printing, which I only recently received. Having loved THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI, (it remains 12 years later, and hundreds of art books later, my essential art book) I had constantly been on the search for more art books by this “master of the aftermath”, and BEKSINSKI 1 fit the bill nicely.

It’s a bit more substantial of a book than Morpheus’ THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI. BEKSINSKI 1 is about the same height as THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI (which is 12″ by 9.6″) while being over an inch thicker, and sporting about 100 more pages.

Zdzislaw Beksinski (Bosz art) (Polish Edition)

There’s a very nice forward, both in Polish and English, by Wieslaw Banach, that is quite eloquent and slightly poetic. Beyond those few pages the rest of the books is given over to just a broad selection, listed chronologically, of Beksinski’s art.

The strength of this tome is its size allows it to include a lot of art not in THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI, some of it quite arresting. The weakness of this tome however is most of the tome is given to his post 1990 work, which is in a different less beautiful/fantastic realist style than his earlier work. It gets quite repetitive actually.

A 2nd failing is while the paper stock is thick, it is a dull, matte finish that does not show off the art of Beksinski as well as the Morpheus tome.

The glossy Morpheus paper, really captures the brightness and vibrancy of Beksinski’s colors, it makes the art come alive. An illusion that is lost in the dull matte finish of the Bosz Tome. Also with the inclusion of quotes interspersed, quite thematically, throughout the entirety of the book, as well as framing the art against, mostly haunting dark colors, THE FANTASIC ART OF BEKSINSKI is just a far superior designed book.

So I don’t regret spending the money to acquire BEKSINSKI 1, it’s a nice expansion to the world of Beksinski, but Morpheus International’s 12 year old tome, THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI remains the definitive book on the last great surrealist.

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art S.)

Final Grades: A+ for THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI B+ for BEKSINSKI 1.