Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Portrait of an Unknown Woman

With her "quiet strength and forthright gaze", this unknown woman is the work of the Russian artist Ivan Kramskoi, and is reputed to have inspired Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina character. In fact, I've been spending a lot of time with Anna recently because I've been listening to an audio book of the novel as read by an actress. It's like having someone sitting next to you, telling you the latest gossip and adventures of all the people you know. Sometimes I wake up at night worrying about Anna. And what of Vronsky, her lover? When his beloved mare Frou-Frou breaks her back in a steeplechase event and has to be shot, I know that worse is to come. It makes me cry.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Why a Penguin?

The residents of Amsterdam's famous canals like to adorn their priceless homes with decorative plaques that communicate some personal message. Yesterday I noticed a magnificent, golden lion, which I guess means that someone thinks he's king of this particular jungle.

But what about this perky penguin? What's his special significance? Here's my spin: The loving couple, who live here, met at the penguin enclosure of the local zoo. Like penguins, who only eat the most expensive herrings, the lady of the house is notoriously high maintenance and only agreed to nest if it were at this palatial residence on the Prinsengracht...

Photo: Annie

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Poor Little Heiress

This is Edie Sedgwick, the It girl of the 1960s Andy Warhol set. She was known for her fabulous wealth, her delicate psyche and her copious drugs use. And her beauty, of course. Although when I look at photos of her, it's not so much her looks I notice as something disturbing... as if she's brain damaged...

Photo: Nat Finkelstein

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Sator Square

Language is a wondrous thing. Take, for instance, the Sator Square, which was first found in the ashes of Pompei in 79 AD. Without the use of a computer, some clever person came up with this word square using the Latin words SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. It's not only a palindrome (i.e.: can be read the same way in either direction) but, as a square, it also works top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right and right-to-left.

Roughly translated it means "the farmer Arepo uses his plough as his form of work".

So why go to all that trouble to say something so trivial? Could it contain an encrypted message? And yes indeed, when treated as an anagram, it becomes rather more intriguing:

This Greek cross comprises the first words of the Lord's Prayer with the two As and Os as Alpha and Omega, suggesting that the Square was probably a clandestine way for early Christians to signal their presence to each other without exposing themselves to persecution.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Remember Gigi Gaston?

According to the blurb: "John Lennon wrote a song for her. Serge Gainsbourg said he wanted to, but never quite got around to it. Norman Mailer likened her to Piaf. Keith Richards said that he wanted to bang her, whereupon Gloria Steinem accused her of being a snag in the cause for feminism. 'Unlike most women' Yves Saint Laurent would chip in 'Gigi wears her clothes. The clothes don’t wear her'."

However, if you do remember Gigi, you're in deep trouble because she never existed. She's simply the brain child of artist Josh Gosfield, who exhibited Gigi's make-believe LPs and magazine covers at New York's Steven Kasher Gallery last autumn.

All this has set me thinking. Because if Gigi's just a figment of someone's imagination, how do I know if Paris Hilton is real?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Watery Grave

Amsterdam - where I live - is known for its sweeping canals. Romantic though they may be, there is another side to the story: the countless drownings that happen each year. There are many causes - crime, people falling through the ice in winter - but the classic drowning involves a man - often a tourist - found dead in the water with his flies open. Why? Because he was attempting to pee into the canal while under the influence, then lost his balance and, sadly, that was that.

Photo: Annie, the floral tribute was for a 65-year-old, whose body was found several days ago.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Once it was "I love you", now it's been cast aside and thrown in the gutter...

Photo: Annie