Quintessentially British? – The Mini

There was a time when I was younger, back in the UK, that just about everyone had owned a mini at some point. They were everywhere. A small car designed to fit in a 10ft x 4ft x 4ft space, carry 4 people at highway speeds and sip fuel.

Following his success with the iconic Morris Minor, Sir Alec Issigonis’ design was an instant hit in 1959 and remained in production, largely unchanged until 2000. Over 5.3 million units were made and it became a British icon alongside Big Ben and the Union Jack.

The Mini is one of the most iconic images of post-war Britain. It symbolizes the swinging 60’s: Carnaby Street, youth culture, rock & roll, sexual liberation, and freedom for the common people.

What could be more British than that?

Well, it must not be forgotten that it was designed by a Greek refugee, Alexander “Alec” Issigonis, later knighted for his engineering/design work. Alec fled to Britain with his family from Smryna in Greece (now called Izmir in Turkey) during the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922.

160216_Mini

My point of designing this simple art work was to bring to the fore the concept that we are all one people and you cannot predict who will do what for whom. In these days of vitriolic rhetoric aimed at the sea of refugees fleeing the Middle East, this is perhaps something we should reflect upon…

~Richard

 

All You Need is Love

 

Yes, today is the day to celebrate lurve… or so we are told. Quite why we cannot share love for the rest of the year is beyond me, but I guess this day at least provides a focal point for this emotion. In the “old” days, when I was a youth, Valentine’s Day was a day when sweethearts connected with cards, flowers, chocolates, and dinner. These days it appears that valentine greetings are appropriate for any member of your extended family, friends and even pets. This year we were even asked by our school district to send valentine wishes to our kids’ teachers, in a desperate attempt to raise funds. Personally, I found that request fairly disturbing, but then perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist – the lyrics to the Police’s classic, “Don’t stand so close to me” seemed to instantly fly into my head when I read the email.

So how did we get to today? Valentine’s Day really first emerged in the writings of one of the first authors to compose written works in English, Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for his wonderful collection, The Canterbury Tales, way back in the 14th Century. In another book, The Parlement of Foules, he celebrated the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia when he penned:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.    

The meaning of which roughly translates to “A gift was given on Valentine’s Day, when every bird chooses his mate”

However, given that mid February in England is way too early for birds to be mating it seems unlikely that he is referring to today’s date.  

Over the following centuries there were many other links of St Valentine to the expression of love, but it seems to have been the early 19th century where this exploded into the sending of amorous missives as handwritten notes and then the mass-produced cards that we know today. For some reason this activity struck a collective chord (perhaps even plucked a heart string) in the populace and today we spend an estimated $19 Billion (yep, you read that correctly) celebrating the day in the US alone. Is it no wonder that Hallmark, jewelers and even car manufacturers push this date down our throats almost as soon as the xmas trees are cleared away?

Anyhow, not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, to use the modern vernacular: May you all have a very Happy Valentine’s Day wherever you are, whatever you do, and whomever you are spending it with, and that’s especially if you are on your own.

160214_LoveIsAllYouNeed

~Richard

Latest Cameras from Nixon and Conan

Amid great fanfare the two flagship camera manufacturers today launched their latest and greatest DSLR products to an eagerly awaiting crowd of photographers at KameraTek 2016 in Berlin, Germany. The Conan CIII-p0 and the Nixon RII-d2 are similarly priced and are clearly aimed at the aspiring professional photographer, as well as those amateurs with bags of cash, who must have the latest gear. But how do they shape up in the field? Well, few have been able to get hold of the models yet as both manufacturers have kept them under tighter wraps than the details of a Donald Trump political plan, but we are able to report that novel technology is used in both models as we had pre-release models.

The Conan boasts a staggering new focus system, ADHD, with 1024 focal points being monitored to ensure that it’s almost impossible to get a blurry shot. Meanwhile Nixon has finally been able to launch its new OCD image stabilization system after more than 2 years in beta-testing.  Interestingly, both models now appear to follow the same algorithms of Sunny’s latest WTF image capture engine which users of the iPharce 6 may find similar to Abble’s Live Photo feature, that became so popular in the last year.

Not to be outdone by the big two, Olympix  also announced their latest m43 flagship model the Olympix OMG, which packs an astounding 26.8MP into this crop sensor, a 30 fps continuous burst mode and a new array of mouthwatering lenses to fit its rangefinder style body. Interestingly, although they have adopted a new RoFL mount system, it remains compatible with the old LoL system too, which is great news for those who committed to the much older technology introduced way back in 2015.

Cameras 9 ©2016, Richard Reeve

All these advancements of course will make very little difference to any photographer’s skill at being able to compose an artful composition, but then that isn’t part of the design. We consumers have an insatiable appetite for the latest changes, however incremental, and readily gobble them up on  a six-monthly schedule in the never-ending quest for the latest gear. And the manufacturers are simply feeding the beast.

Carry on clicking…

~Richard

Year of the Monkey

Today is the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of Monkey (or fire monkey to be slightly more precise). When I first thought of this the old maxim “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” immediately came to my head, with the well-worn image of the three wise monkeys, Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru:

 

160208_MonkeysNew

Although this is better known from Japanese iconography, popularized in the 17th century, it supposedly has its roots in the teachings of the venerable Chinese philosopher, Confucius, who originally wrote, “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety” in the Analects of Confucius 1800 years before. This was later simplified to the nine words we know today.

In these recent days of political bombast, bully rhetoric, vitriolic speeches and  general mud-slinging by people who vie to be our would-be rulers it would be gratifying to see them heed this maxim, if only for a short while. Imagine how refreshing it would be for them to opine only positively; to layout their well-thought out plans for the country; to ignore sound bites and twitter hits, and actually attempt to act like the statesmen and stateswomen they purport to be.

But, that being said, why should we be so hard on our politicians? We should all consider this behavior and attempt to act this way in our own lives. I know that I am easily drawn into the trap of “water cooler moaning” during the day, and I too should know better.

One thing that I noticed a few years ago, when I took up photography seriously, was that my outlook on the world did actually change. it seems that somehow looking through a viewfinder, and searching for a well composed shot literally focused my mind on seeing things in a different way. I’m not saying that I do this all the time, but when I am in my “photographer mode” I certainly am a more positive person.

So, here’s a challenge for you: Try to be mindful of  the simple phrase “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” throughout the day and try to deliver on it.

Oh, and a Happy (Chinese) New Year!

~Richard

The Day the Music Died – National Signing Day

I was in the gym this morning and thinking about what I could use a subject for today’s blog entry when one of the wall screens showed a conference taking place with the banner “National Signing Day” in the background. Being a non-sporting type of guy I was intrigued so, after my workout, I toddled off to the trusty old interweb and “ran a search” as we used to say, in the pre-googly days of dial up.

Now I don’t really have much to say about National Signing Day, or football in general, but I thought it would be great to turn this into a pun about National Singing Day, perhaps (see what I did there?). A quick bit of research showed that, along with all the sad misspellings commemorating today’s “big event” on twitter, there is some limited consensus that a National Singing Day exists (or rather A Sing Up Day) today too!

However, and much more poignantly, I also uncovered that today, February 3rd, is also noted as “The Day the Music Died” since it memorializes the dreadful plane crash in 1959 that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and their pilot, Roger Peterson near Clear Lake, Iowa.

For my younger readers (!), the phrase comes from Don McLeans’s classic song American Pie, first released in 1971, but it has now become part of American musical folklore.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Holly, Valens and “Big Bopper” were early players in a youth culture shift that shaped the attitudes of the western world forever. They moved the focus of the old, staid world towards a more upbeat, positive, freer society that, in turn, paved the way for myriad positive societal changes throughout the US and beyond. Through the medium of music, and showmanship they showed the youth of the era that change could happen from the ground up.

Now, nearly 60 years later, I wonder if some of that spark has been lost as we have succumbed totally to the material nature of the modern world. It seems to me that the youth of today are more obsessed with plastic celebrity than raw talent; being force fed conformity through technology and the fear of making mistakes I wonder if they (and we) have lost something.

Perhaps it is time for those free spirits to be re-kindled and for me to bring up my homage to the simple instruction kit that was used in the 1977 Sniffin’ Glue fanzine some 18 years after The Day the Music Died to inspire the birth of the “punk” movement, and encourage the then disenfranchised kids to pick up a guitar and form a band.

160203_TheDayTheMusicDied

Rock on, kids!

~Richard

Happy Birthday Klaus Nomi

Sometime around 1981 or ‘82  I was watching The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2 when I was totally taken aback by the outlandish appearance of one of the singers in a music video being shown. It was Klaus Nomi singing Total Eclipse and I watched in fascination only to be completely blown away by the astounding vocal range of this artist. I was hooked; here was a truly unique musical experience for a teenager who was expanding his musical tastes. I needed to find out more, but in those days, pre-internet, in a small coastal British town it was not easy to do. I relied, like most adolescents of the time, on radio and TV music shows, hoping to be able to tape or video anything I could get my hands on.

Simple Man by Richard Reeve

Over the decades that song stuck with me, and I have gone back to it periodically, along with Nomi Song and Simple Man. Klaus Nomi had a great career opening up for him in the early eighties, but it was not to blossom into the mainstream consciousness as he became an early victim of complications due to AIDS. He died in 1983, at the age of 39.

In the 80s, to me he seemed the epitome of outrageous, without actually being overt in the way that punk had been. In fact, it was the way he casually dropped in and out of the countertenor register seemed truly outrageous to me.

It would have been marvelous to see what he would have been able to create had he lived longer and what further influences he would have had on today’s artists.

Happy Birthday, Simple Man!  

 
~Richard

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