Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snap Shots (Buildings in Hamilton) (November 2012-January 2013

Preferred clientele? (1846 Main Street West, near White Chapel Cemetery.)

Downtown building (James Street North at Cannon), looks "vacant".
Brick building on Cannon Street

On John Street North by Hunter Street. Close to the GO Station.

King Street East. This always struck me as...ironic.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Castello Sforzesco (Milan, May, 2007)

Strolling through the middle of Milan, I still remember the non-linear path that took me to this street where I saw the red-stone castle--the Castello Sfrozesco, though I didn't know its name in advance--perched intriguingly at a distance. Everything seemed to lead toward it, so I decided to take a look around and find out what it was.

This castle, which seems to operate as one of Milan's major points of orientation, sits resplendent at the end of Via Dante if you're approaching from the direction of the Duomo. In front of it is a square where a snack wagon was parked, offering a bewildering array of sandwiches and drinks. Men who looked African were standing over rows of faux-designer handbags, hawking them to tourists in multiple languages.

The design of the top part of this striking central tower (below), which is visible from down the street, reminded me of the Signoria in Florence, which I got to see later that same week. This is called the Filarete tower (Torre de Filarete).

When first constructed in 1358 (and completed in 1368) by Galeazzo Il Visconti, the castle was the home of the Visconti family. Seen as a symbol of the Visconti, it was destroyed (and its stones used to renovate the city walls) in 1447 when Milan was proclaimed a republic, after the death of Filippo Maria Visconti. A reconstruction of the castle was begun by Francesco Sforza when he became duke of Milan in 1450.

From the outside, I didn't quite understand the architecture and layout of this castle because the round towers (designed by Bartolomeo Gadio) would not have been easy to defend from cannon fire; and cannon had been used in Europe since the 1000s. Additionally it looks like there are loopholes (arrow slits) in the towers--the little dark squares you can see in the walls.

Was the castle built for this kind of defence, or more as a place of residence? A bit of Internet research informs me that Castello Sforzesco used to be one of the largest citadels in Europe; the explanation for its current appearance seems to lie in the trail of its history.

As I described above, the castle began as a palace for the Dukes of Milan, and had at least two incarnations. After the fall of the dukes, during the Spanish occupation in the 1500s, the castle was converted into a military hub and developed into a large star fort with 12 bastions.

Cannon balls piled by the castle walls
In 1521 under French domination, the gunpowder warehouse in the Filarete Tower exploded when the tower was hit by lightning.

The Renaissance obsession with mathematical proportion shows up clearly in the beautiful Corte Ducale.
During the reign of Ludovico Il Moro (Sforza), Leonardo da Vinci lived in the castle, creating such works as the decorations in the famous Sala delle Asse ("room of the tower" or "room of wooden boards"--1495-97). Ludovico Sforza also commissioned Leonardo's "Last Supper".

Above: the Pietà Rondanini, Michelangelo's "last masterpiece" which was left incomplete when he died in 1564 at the age of 89. Unlike many of his other sculptures, it's a piece imbued with both gentleness and strength, and you walk in upon it as if upon a secret--at least that was my experience, since I didn't know it was there, and "discovered" it around a dark corner!

Beautiful window inside the castle.
Over the centuries, the castle has served as home to many "occupiers" incuding the French, the Austrians (1706) and the Spanish. At one point (1796) Milan was taken by Napoleon, who was urged to have the castle destroyed. Instead, he built a square in front of it. Over the 19th century Castello Sforzesco was left in a state of increasing disrepair, its beautifully frescoed rooms used for horse stalls and chicken hutches.

After the unification of Italy in 1861, the castle was restored under the direction of Luce Beltrami (between 1893 and 1904), and again after World War II when it had been seriously damaged by bombing.

More Renaissance proportions in a courtyard
Since its restoration around the turn of the last century, the Castello Sforzesco has been used to house the Musei Civici including the Museum of Ancient Art, the Furniture Museum, and the Musical Instrument Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the Achille Bertarelli Print Museum.

The castle is also faced on its opposite side by the beautiful Parco Sempione, where I had the luck to run into a rather interesting sculpture during the same visit.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Breadscapes (March 24, 2012)

This looks like a barren foothill at dusk.
This weekend I decided to make some bread, as I often do on the weekend, since I like a bit of a break from working (and baking feels like an accomplishment, too!).

A volcanic landscape with rumpled rock & bare ridges or...
Baking bread also means I don't have to buy what they have at the shop, which I often don't like. Then there's the added bonus of being able to sample it fresh from the oven.

A river winding its way through a rocky valley spackled with snow.
  I decided not to try to cut the bread while it was piping hot because as delicious as it is, often the bread crumbles as it's being cut since the heat makes it very spongy.

Metamorphic rock in the making, or glacial ice, the blue bubbles pressed hard into strata?
So while I was waiting for the bread to cool, I put the loaf on a counter and took pictures of it sitting in the sunlight, because the patterns and shapes looked a lot like geographic formations when I "zoomed in" on them.

Bare boulders eroded by water?
The camera had some problems focussing when I tried to get too close to the bread, but I did like how abstract and alien the images started to look, especially after I converted them to black and white so their tan-brown colouring didn't provide a clue as to what was being photographed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cicadas (January 22-23, 2010)

These pictures were taken at Old Macdonald's Farm, near the Abel Tasman National Park in Marahau, South Island, New Zealand. I was thinking of this place the other day, because I was listening to a music track that had faint cicada sounds in the background, and the cicadas in this particular place were incredibly loud.

I really miss the cicadas' collective song, how it always seemed to thicken the air like humidity, as if it were a part of the heat itself--one of the elements of summer. I took the video below so I would be able to remind myself of it later, at a distance.

I remember as a child I'd lie on the front lawn, almost feeling the pulse of their sound, like a current that moves through flesh.

And if you listened for a while, you could hear patterns picking themselves out in the massive thrum--every now and then the little waves of sound would fall into sync, one wave amplifying another, you could hear them merging into each other and then, as part of the same pattern they became syncopated again, sawing new tense patterns, moving between conflict and concert, a "movement" itself formed entirely from impressions that emerged from the grand, cumulative throb of their song.

They must have been roosting on the trees here by the thousand. Walking along the dirt driveway formed into a tree-lined avenue, we were enveloped by the sound of this mass of tiny animals that remained almost completely unseen.

Above: Another insect we found nearby--unidentified as yet (and as far as I know--not a cicada), but interesting-looking!

Update: the kind folks at "What's That Bug" identified this as a (female) Huhu Beetle!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sun Rises, Sun Sets (Hamilton, November 1st-10th, 2011)

Sunset, Gage Park. November 1st, 2011.
Taken at the Pumpkin Parade, the day after Hallowe'en. When I took this picture I was facing north and looking towards Main Street; the sky was very clear and as the sun set slowly, the glowing pumpkins looked more ghostly and festive.

Sunrise, downtown. November 2nd, 2011.
On the way to an early-morning swim, I took this picture on Jackson Street.

Sunset, Main Street East. November 2nd, 2011.
Walking to the supermarket, I stopped to take a picture of the stunning sky. I love this rare intensity of colour, the way even the deep blue is overlaid by the orange glow of the sun.

Sunrise, back porch. November 10th, 2011.
I love the view of the sky from the back deck at my place. I am usually awake early in the morning and especially in winter, I get to see some beautiful sunrises (the window faces directly east). This one looks like a fire being smothered by its own smoke.