Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Art of the Franco-Prussian War

Click any image to enlarge

In 1870 Otto von Bismark maneuvered to place Prince Lepold on the Spanish throne. This created a crisis in France because they felt it would have led to them being surrounded by a Prussian/Spanish alliance. Leopold's name was withdrawn, but the crisis simmered. 

In July of 1870 the French, believing they had a much better equipped army, declared war on Prussia. Alas for the French, the Prussians mobilized much quicker and pushed into France. By September the Prussians were besieging Paris. The French government collapsed and the resulting treaty ending the war resulted in the French paying an indemnity to Prussia as well as ceding Alsace and part of Lorraine (one of the grievances that was to lead to WWI). The war also unified Prussia with southern German states, which led to modern Germany. 

These are paintings from that war. They were done after the war and some of them give the 19th Century romantic version of war as a noble thing, Others, at least from the German perspective, commemorated victories. The French paintings tended to nurture grievances that were to fester. 

There are more images after the jump. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

My Caribbean cruise

Above is a video touring the Star Clipper. I was on its sister ship the Star Flyer. They appear to be more-or-less identical. I've never really been interested in taking a cruise; stage shows, casinos, bars scattered hither and yon and thousands of fellow passengers don't appeal to me. However, this was a small boat (there were about 140 passengers on the cruise), so I caved into Ms Sinistral's wishes and gave it a try.

We sailed along the Windward Islands stopping here and there. Before the cruise I was cynical enough to expect that masts to be mainly cosmetic, but they actually sailed the boat. I would guess that over 90% of the time we were under sail rather than power. It was interesting seeing how the sails were rigged and handled.

Below is a video of the fellow's stateroom. Mine was laid out a little differently, but it was the same size. Like him, I too was on the bottom deck, I joked that we were traveling in steerage.

All in all it was a relaxing trip. I would recommend it.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Chi Bol

Get ready for a gormandized weekend with Noubold featuring 290.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023


When you use bronze as a mirror, you can straighten your clothes and hat. When you use antiquity as a mirror, you can see the waxing and waning. When you use a person as a mirror, you can know if you grasp things or not. - Taizong


Sunday, March 19, 2023

HMS Victory

This video is a tour of the HMS Victory using 3D modeling. It's nice in that it doesn't fixate on the rigging of the ship, rather it gives a tour of the decks. It gives a good idea of how complex yet still functional the design and layout of the ship was.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Old airline ads

Click any image to enlarge

These are a collection of mid 20th century airline ads. They are from an era when air travel was more exotic than it is today. It would be slightly gauche to not wear a suit or dress. They started by emphasizing the reach of airplanes, but eventually moved on to targeting other groups of travelers than the early adopters: older people, single woman, families, businessmen and so forth.

They are taken from the Duke Library's Transportation Archive

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Stop-motion ninja puppet battle

Above is a video of an animated battle featuring Hidari Jingorō, who was a famous Japanese sculptor from the Edo period. He may, or may not, have been an actual person. There are many stories surrounding him. Apparently, he was missing his right hand and one of the stories is that rival sculptors, jealous of his skills, hacked it off. I think that's what this stop-motion film memorializes.

Video via Spoon and Tamago.


Friday, March 10, 2023

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Korean comfort food

As I recover from the Wuhan Flu I've been subsisting on bread, crackers, water and coffee. Above is a video of Koran comfort food. I'll be damned if I know what it is, but maybe I would be eating it if I were sick in Seoul. Or maybe not. As an extra, below are drinks from a beach somewhere in Korea.

Sunday, March 05, 2023


Click any image to enlarge

One of the effects this bout of the Wuhan Flu has had on me is sapping all of my energy. My lethargy is off the charts. So, to reflect my state, I pulled together this collection of paintings of people sleeping or idling about. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Now I'm sick

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I got sick on the tail end of my trip. When I tested myself I have covid, bleh. Aching, coughing and a general apathy. So, things will still be slow here for a bit.


Monday, February 27, 2023

Back from my vacation

This song is a bit over-the-top as a reflection of my travels. For example, no River Jordan for me. It will take me a bit to get back in the groove, but this little post is a start.


Friday, February 17, 2023

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Gone fishing

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I'm going to be away for a bit. I may or may not post for a week or so. To my few regulars, and my horde of faithful spam bots, try your best to contain your grief over that announcement. Nobody likes a crybaby.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Female soldiers on parade

This isn't the usual 'hot military babes' picture click-bait post, instead it just is of female military units marching in parades. I have odd search habits looking for curiosities to post about, and I suspect the various search algorithms sometimes struggle with figuring out just what the hell it is I'm interested in so's advertisers can bombard me with their nonsense. 

Recently the above video popped up in YouTube for me. I had done a post called Calloused feet showing an Indian military parade.  While probably not the case, I like to think it was combined with my post about a visit to a Japanese girls bar to come up with that video of a parade full of Indian female soldiers. I've included a few other videos of women soldiers high stepping down boulevards from the site.

The site is Russian. Along with marching damsels it also has a lot of Russian propaganda songs. They're quite strange. The Great Patriotic War lives on in Russian music.  If you watch any, turn on the captions so can get the lyrics.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Shadows and walls

Inferno by Fan Ho
(click image to enlarge)

I was reminded of a remark of Willa Cather's, that you can't paint sunlight, you can only paint what it does with shadows on a wall. If you examine a life, as Socrates has been so tediously advising us to do for so many centuries, do you really examine a life, or do you examine the shadows it casts on other lives? Entity or relationships? Objective reality or the vanishing point of a multiple perspective exercise? Prism or the rainbows it refracts? And what if you're the wall? What if you never cast a shadow or rainbow of your own, but have only caught those cast by others? - Wallace Stegner 


Friday, February 10, 2023

Come Together

Get ready for a devil-may-care weekend with
Leo Moracchioli, Hannah Boulton, Rabea Massaad, Erik Torp and Truls Haugen


Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Buster Keaton stunts

I've always like Buster Keaton a lot more than Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin would get sappy at times, while Keaton just went for the jokes, and his physical comedy is top-notch. In the modern era there is Jackie Chan, who comes close to Buster's stunt level. These are some of Keaton's better stunts, with explanations as to how they were done.


Sunday, February 05, 2023

Better late than never

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Recently I discovered, from the ChatGPT program, that this blog is actually about a group of friends who enjoy nocturnal camping and post about their adventures. Imagine my mortification when I realized that, in the 18-year history of this blog, I had never once posted about any of that. Seesh, talk about taking my eye off the ball.

Anyway, since AI chatbots obviously know best, I decided to rectify that oversight by posting this small collection of nighttime camping paintings. Please forgive me for my previous failings.  

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Flares & AI

Homer and I are both confused
(click image to enlarge)

Uhhh... about this ChatGPT program...

Q: What is the Flares into Darkness blog about?

A: Flares into Darkness is a blog written by a group of friends who share a passion for exploring and documenting their adventures through the night, from camping to star-gazing and more. The blog is a platform for them to share their experiences, stories, and photos from their nocturnal journeys.

I've been doing this blog all wrong, I guess.


Friday, February 03, 2023

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Paintings of canals

Click any image to enlarge

Canals are man-made waterways that either serve as drainage controls or for transportation. Mankind has been digging canals for a long time. Many are scenic as well as being utilitarian. These are some paintings of canals, from Europe to Asia. I left out the two largest canals, Suez and the Panama Canal.

I almost bought a house on a canal. We called it a large drainage ditch, but on the map it is called the Pearce Canal, so a canal it is. Alas, the homeowner was asking too much for the place, so we lost out on the bid.   

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Riding a jet powered scooter

A fellow at Warped Perceptions builds and tests a jet powered scooter. It seems dangerous to me, but who am I to question another man's ambitions. At his YouTube channel you can see a lot of other crazy projects he's embarked on. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A helicopter ride in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan

A helicopter was transporting some British, German, Polish and Japanese tourists to a camp at the base of a glacier in the mountains of Kyryzstan. It crashed when it attempted to land. The ground at the landing site gave way. The pilot attempted to recover, but the copter ended up rolling down a hill. Above is video from inside of the helicopter by one of the passengers. Below is a picture of the helicopter after the crash.

All things considered, it is amazing how quiet the passengers are during the crash. Surprisingly there is no screaming -- if I had been aboard my Navy training would surely have clicked in and a stream of hysterical cusswords would have spewed out of my mouth. Nobody was killed, but there were some serious injuries.

From a Daily Mail article David, the person who shot the video, describes the crash:

The weather on that day was almost perfect for a flight. There was barely any wind and the skies were clear. We took off around 8:30 in the morning. The flight time was estimated to be around 45 minutes. We climbed to about 4500 meters in altitude, which is close to the maximum altitude this helicopter can manage.

The glacier base camp was at 4010m. At about 9:05am, I started to record the video which would eventually capture the crash. The descent to the base camp was very calm and we barely felt any turbulence.

The helicopter slowly lowered over the landing platform, which was really just a smoothened-out part of a gravel hill, about 100m from the main camp and was marked with two spray painted oil barrels. When we finally touched down, the wheel on the right side seemed to slide away, perhaps because of a hole underneath or a rock getting lose.

As a reaction to this, the pilot started to accelerate again and pitched the helicopter to the left rather rapidly. At this point he had already lost control of the machine.

We were probably too heavily loaded and too high in altitude for a sudden go-around manoeuvre. While trying to gain altitude again and turn the aircraft around, we violently hit the ground with the wheels and bounced off again. 

After that it seemed for a moment like the pilot was regaining control again as he was trying to fly a curve back towards the lower parts of the valley. At that time, we were already too low and flying directly towards a steep wall of ice and gravel. We collided with the wall head-on and the force of the impact threw everyone and everything to the front of the cabin.

The wreckage rolled down sideways until it came to a stop at the bottom, right next to a small glacier lake. All of the passengers and their luggage, including us, lay piled up in the front of the cabin.

I was buried under several large backpacks and the Japanese tour guide who was lying on top of my legs, making it impossible for me to move. The panic set in when I felt the stinging of kerosene around my feet as my shoes were being drenched in it and the fear of being burnt alive at any second made me struggle even harder.

Eventually, I managed to push myself out and scramble towards the back of the cabin. Luckily for us, there was a large hole torn into the side by the impact, through which we could escape. Help was already on the way and people from the base camp came running over to offer their help. They barely had any medical equipment though, so they had to transport the badly injured on wooden boards or pallets. 

Click image to enlarge

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The gift of reading your mind

Click image to enlarge

I Don't Need Any Approval - Satish Verma

No, no― I will not
keep any hope.

First thing will be
a breakdown. To cleanse myself.
Then― burn the cenotaph
of black bridge.

The fringe vocabulary
repeats the axe's argument.
You can kill a star without
dust and slogans.

You were thirsty. Don't
drink large tears of
sky. No sun, no moon was
worthy of witnessing a
fall of pride.

The evil thoughts. Do
they come on their own? You
did not try to invite them?

I will not purchase the gift
of reading your mind.


Friday, January 20, 2023

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sword and sandals

Click any image to enlage

In the mid 20th Century Hollywood was producing successful movies such as Spartacus and Ben-Hur. In the 1950s and 60s the Italian film industry responded by producing their own historical/mythical themed movies. These films are known as sword and sandal films. They were low budget, focusing not on lavish sets, but rather featuring muscular men (most of the leads were body builders). In addition, they showcased buxom young ladies, both as heroines in need of saving and Eeeeevil vixens up to no good. They also featured sword fighting, manly grunting and dancing girls galore. 

Back in the day, when there were only broadcast channels on TV, they would be shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They were a chore to watch. The plots were ludicrous, the special effects were cheesy, and the acting was bad. The inept acting was made worse by the awful dubbing they did for English speaking audiences. 

These images, and those after the jump, are posters for some of these films. They are from 100 Years of Movie Posters post Italian Epics. There are more examples at that link.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Walking in Mombasa

Mombasa is a Kenyan port city on the Indian Ocean that is centuries old. I believe this walk is through the old city area. The streets are narrow and winding, and most appear to carry one-way traffic. It must be a nightmare to get from point A to B if you're not familiar with it. While the buildings are showing their age, many are nicely painted and have very interesting architecture and decorative flourishes. It looks like an interesting place.


Monday, January 09, 2023


Click any image to enlarge

Khrushchyovka are Soviet era apartment blocks. They were designed to be cheaply and quickly built and intended to give every Soviet citizen a home. They were constructed very shoddily. The apartments were small and had low ceilings with poor wiring and plumbing. They were up to five stories tall and had no elevators. They are ubiquitous, and falling apart, across the area of the old Soviet Union. 

I was amused by the East German toy above. It was their version of a sort of Lego blocks, but from the looks of it all you could do with it was to stack square apartments to make Khrushchyovkas. That seems about right.  

Immediately below is what I assume was marketing for the new housing. Following that are some pictures of the interiors of the apartments. They were small and cramped.


Saturday, January 07, 2023

Darkness from light

Shot at Dawn
The Survivor by Chris Abani

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.

The following are empty synonyms:
man and beast
love and hate
friend and foe
darkness and light.

The way of killing men and beasts is the same
I've seen it:
truckfuls of chopped-up men
who will not be saved.

Ideas are mere words:
virtue and crime
truth and lies
beauty and ugliness
courage and cowardice.

Virtue and crime weigh the same
I've seen it:
in a man who was both
criminal and virtuous.

I seek a teacher and a master
may he restore my sight hearing and speech
may he again name objects and ideas
may he separate darkness from light.

I am twenty-four
led to slaughter
I survived.


Friday, January 06, 2023

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

270+ pounds of meat

The above video is set in a rather nice-looking Uzbekistani restaurant. They are cooking shawarma, or maybe it is doner kebab. A huge pile is made by layering beef, lamb and what-not. It is then cooked using a vertical rotisserie. They also make the flat bread that is used to either wrap it or to make a sandwich. It looks like it would be a very tasty meal.

The equipment and preparation procedures are complex. I always wonder, especially for more exotic and complex meals, how we traveled from a caveman's campfire to today's dishes. A thread of history that will be forever opaque.


Monday, January 02, 2023

Paintings by Harald Sohlberg

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Harald Sohlberg was a late 19th early 20th century Norwegian artist. He was a neo-Romantic painter. I quite like his use of color, it is simple, but often times surprising in its subtlety. From the link:

Sohlberg remained committed to the landscapes of his native Norway. He visited parts of the country that had not previously attracted artists and helped establish for them an artistic identity. For example, he later lived in the small town of Røros, which was heavily marked by its copper-mining history. While other painters tended to seek out areas of unspoilt landscape, Sohlberg was drawn to this collision of nature and culture and frequently included such elements as roads and telegraph poles in his works – always carefully chosen for their potential symbolic value.

Sohlberg’s early training as a craftsman was to shape his entire career, providing the grounding for what was to become his ‘signature style’. In the course of the 1890s, he replaced his earlier use of free, impasto brush­work with a glazing technique he had learned during his apprenticeship – and which was looked down on by many of his colleagues as unpainterly. Although a modernist in many ways, he also incorporated more traditional and academic methods, such as the use of transfer grids and rulers. Precise drawing was the foundation of all of his work, and this would then be covered by layers of coloured primer, and glazes of transparent paint. It was important to Sohlberg for his pencil-work to remain visible, and he also frequently accentuated his use of a horizontal-vertical grid, not only for its draftsmanly qualities, but for its marking out the symbolic dimensions of the composition, with the horizontal signifying the earthly and the vertical the supernatural or spiritual. Like Munch, he worked with a simplified palette – frequently white, black, blue, red or green – which helped capture something of the specific Nordic light, atmosphere, and mood. He also insisted that each painting must have one ‘dominant’ colour, which he would exaggerate with emotive effect. 

Glazing is a technique where, over a base of a color, you lay thin layers of transparent colors (in acrylics you're laying down thin washes of watered-down paint that is more tinted water than paint out of the tube). The effect if very vibrant. I doubt that these images do his painting full justice, but they are still striking. 

Harald Sohlberg

Sunday, January 01, 2023

The birthing pains of a new year

Trying to remember the details
of your New Year's Eve party
through the fog of last night's alchohol

He realised at once that a mistake had been made: he had been sent the wrong hangover. Somewhere in northern Rhodesia there was a bull elephant who had got drunk on fermented marula fruit, rampaged through a nearby village, and fallen asleep in a ditch, and was now pleasantly surprised to find itself greeting the day with only the mild headache that follows a couple of bottles of good red wine… Perhaps if he got in touch with the relevant authorities he could get this unfortunate little mix-up corrected, but he would have to do so without moving his head or opening his eyes. Otherwise he would die from the pain. ― Ned Beauman