Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Leonardo Da Vinci - A Legacy of Immortal Genius


Heaven smiled and he was born Da Vinci, Leonardo. The impact and resonance of his contribution to humanity is not measurable in mere mortal terms. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, his life's work is an awe inspiring synthesis of art, science and technology.

How is it that a figure who lived nearly five centuries ago, continues to fascinate and engage our interest today? With the recent discovery of a studio of a Da Vinci's that had been sealed for centuries and the ongoing debate regarding the true origin of the alleged Da Vinci Code, time again has resurrected and revitalized interest in perhaps the greatest thinker of all time.

Born the illegitimate son of a notary, Leonardo was born in 1452 in a small farmhouse in Anchiano. In 1457 he moved to Vinci where he stayed with his fathers family even though he was never legitimized. At the age of 14 Leonardo moved to Florence to begin an apprenticeship in the workshop of Verrocchio. At the time, Andrea del Verrochio was the most famous artist in Florence. During his tenure with Verrocchio, Leonardo learned the mixing of colors and painted simple parts of paintings. In June, 1472, Leonardo was listed as a member of the Painters Guild of Florence.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation, painted in 1480-1481, now hangs in the Louvre. It is a small painting with a deep and misty landscape with highly detailed flowers in the foreground very typical of Leonardo's style during his time in Florence.


By far one of the most famous paintings of all time, the Last Supper was painted between 1495 and 1498 at the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery in Milan. This biblical scene, commissioned by the Friars of Saint Dominic is significant for it's incredible composition and the subtle emotional interplay between the apostles. Featuring great dexterity and mastery of the human form, this compelling work is at once a moving testament to Christianity and a marvel of DaVinci's virtuosity and technical finesse as a painter. This painting firmly establishes Leonardo's position as the supreme master artist of the high renaissance. At all times, Christ is the central focus of the scene. This is accomplished by placing Christ in the center of the painting and by placing all of the spatial lines and perspective points within the framework of the painting to draw the viewer to the very center of the tableau. The apostles are in fact supporting characters and each and every figure is majestically formed to frame and enhance the focus on the Christ figure. The years surrounding the period in which the Last Supper was painted were periods of intense anatomical studies for Da Vinci. It is a well known fact that Leonardo dissected cadavers in order to fully understand the complex workings of the muscles and inner workings of the human body. Of huge importance is to understand that the individual apostles are reacting to Christ’s announcement that a traitor is among them. This is the very heart of this timeless, enduring image. The “Pathos” of each figure is brilliantly executed through gestures and reactions that reveal each apostle's individual astonishment, disbelief, and fear. Certainly one of the worlds most widely copied paintings, The Last Supper has greatly deteriorated over the years. This was due to Da Vinci's experimentation with pigments and the natural time-related decay. Initial conservation efforts date back to the early 18th century. The more recent restorations lasted twenty years concluding in June 1999.


Began in 1503, the Mona Lisa was a commissioned portrait of the Florentine nobleman, Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi de Giocondo's third wife, Lisa di Antonio Maria di Noldo Gjerardini at the age of twenty four. Painted on poplar wood, the iconic imagery of the Mona Lisa is so ingrained into western culture that the enigmatic smile of the mysterious woman is nearly synonymous with art, itself. As with many of da Vinci's works, this painting has a stunning history. The allure and myth of the work Is matched with the technical and artistic virtuosity of the piece. The sublety of the magnificent smile, the richly layered and highly detailed background are hallmarks of a process known as sfumato. Utilizing layers and layers of glazes, the illusion of depth is achieved. This technique, highly developed by the Dutch masters, was adopted and perfected to such a degree by Leonardo that it became a Da Vinci trademark. Another fine example of sfumato is The Virgin of The Rocks (1484) National Gallery, London.

The original Mona Lisa was actually larger than the present 77 x 53 cm. Originally, there were two columns one on each side of the figure which made it much clearer that the young woman is seated on a terrace. Leonardo worked on Mona Lisa for 4 years and kept the painting himself. Some believe that he was simply unable to part with it. Nine years later, arriving in France, the painting was in his baggage, and was sold to King Francis I. Amboise, Fountainbleau, Versailles, Ludwig XIV's collection and the Louvre were all homes to this alluring masterpiece. Napolean removed the painting from the Louvre and hung it in his bedroom. Upon his banishment to Elba, the Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre.

In 1911, the painting was stolen by an italian art thief. Ironically, two years later, the Mona Lisa resurfaced in Florence, the city of its true origin! Eventually the painting made it's way back to the Louvre. In the 60s and 70's, The Mona Lisa was exhibited in New York, Tokyo and Moscow. Today the masterpiece is in permanent residence in the Louvre and international law prohibits any foreign exhibition.


In addition to Leonardo's extraodinary contributions to the world of art, his powers of divine intellect led him to explore many other fields of endeavor. The renaissance was the period in which science and art blended together in the search for the purest, logical, and analytical observation of nature. The Homo - Vitruvianus by Da Vinci is a study of proportions with the human figure inscribed in a circle and a square is a superb example of this philosophy and the period's quest for scientific analysis.

Leonardo again placed himself at the forefront of this new age of reason and intellect. His commitment to observation of the human body is unsurpassed and included skeletal and muscle studies, respiratory and digestive systems and the evolution of the fetus within the womb. The collection of Leonardo's anatomical studies consist of roughly two hundred folios and are kept at the Royal Library at Windsor, England. Additionally daVinci's vast study of nature include the action of light, the growth of plants and the flow of water.


Considering the scope and vision of Leonardo's power of expression and the multitude of interests that inspired and intrigued him, it would be next to impossible to list them all. His spirit of scientific inquiry coupled with a daring and inventive mind allowed him to explore and elaborate on inventions and concepts as varied as engines, gears and pulleys flow mills and irrigational aqueducts. Fascinated with flight, Leonardo carefully observed birds and their wing structures. Applying these deceptively simple principles to mechanics and technology, he made numerous illustrations depicting machines of flight which are in essence the “working plans “ for hang-gliders, planes and helicopters which exist today. This is but one of the many examples of why Leonardo da Vinci is considered an enigma that lived centuries ahead of his time.


In autumn of 1516 Leonardo arrived in Amboise, at the invitation of King Francis I. He lived in the small castle cloux and pursued his hydrological studies. At the age of 67, the great master passed away on May 2, 1519. His health had severely deteriorated and paralysis had taken over the right side of his body. Leonardo da Vinci's remains are in the Chapel of St. Hubert situated within the king castle complex in Amboise, France.


Considered the last of Leonardo's verifiable works, this painting is strikingly different from previous visual conceptions of the saint. It is a powerful work in it's subtle simplicity and contains four recurring elements or themes consistent with Da Vinci's other dazzingly poetic paintings: the flowing curly hair defined with incredible precision, the enigmatic smile, peering through deep, dense shadows and perhaps most poignant, a finger pointing to heaven.


1.) Self Portrait. 1512. Red Chalk on Paper. Biblioteka Reale. Turin, Italy.

2.) The Annunciation. c. 1472-1475. Oil and Tempera on Wood. Uffizi Gallery. Florence, Italy

3.) The Last Supper. 1495-1498. Oil and Tempera on Plaster. Fresco, 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft)
Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, (Refectory). Milan, Italy.

4.) The Last Supper (detail of Jesus) see above.

5.) Mona Lisa. (La Gioconda) 1503-1506. Oil on Wood. Louvre, Paris, France.

6.) The Virgin of the Rocks. 1503-1506. Oil on Wood, 189.5 x 120 cm (6 x 4 ft.)

The National Gallery. London, England

7.) The Proportions of the Human Figure (Vitruvia Man). 1490. Pen, ink and watercolor over metalpoint.
Galleria dell ‘Accademia. Venice, Italy.

8.) Female genitals and foetus in the uterus. 1510-1512. Windsor, Royal Library (RL 1901r: K/P 197v)

9.) Study for flying machine. C.1487-1490 (the so-called “helicopter”) Ms B f. 83v

10.) St. John the Baptist. c.1573-1516. Oil on Wood. Louvre, Paris, France.











Leonardo Da Vinci

By Carlo Pedretti

Published by TAJ Books

Cobham, Surrey

United Kingdom


Great Ages of Man

Time-Life Books

Copyright 1965

Art: Context and Criticism

By John Kissick

Penn State University

Published by Wm.C. Brown Communications, Inc.

Copyright 1993.

This Article Copyright 2005 by John Keaton. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Capture the Secrets of Venice's Art on School Trips

The beauty and uniqueness of Venice has been captured on canvas by some of the world's most renowned artists. From the Renaissance artists to JMW Turner and on to the present day, the city has attracted interest from many. Students on school trips to the city will have a wealth of art to discover.

The Renaissance

The Venetian School dates from 1450 until 1600, and during this time Venice was a powerful republic with a stable economy and strong trading economy. It survived outbreaks of the Black Death and the fall of its main trading partner Constantinople. This all meant that it had the wealth to support an art movement, and the Venetian School was born.

For students walking around Venice during school trips, art abounds, and it just falls to you to see it. It was all about appearances, and the beautiful palaces throughout the city result from the importance of the first impression being as impressive as possible.

Anyone who has visited Venice will have noticed the quality of the light, and the artists of Venice started to look at the relationship between light and colour. The pioneers of the Venetian School came from the Murano glassworker families of Bellini and Vivarini; however, the first big name in Venetian painting was Giorgione, whose important works include The Tempest and Sleeping Venus, which was completed by Titian after the premature death of Giorgione. Titian was inspired by Giorgione and, along with Tintoretto and many artists from other parts of the world, travelled to Venice to continue his legacy. These artists included Albrecht Durer and El Greco.

Titian and Tintoretto are two of the artists whose work is exhibited at the Doges Palace on St Marks Square, at site that should be on the itinerary of any school trips to Venice. The Doges Palace is a collection of small museums housed around a courtyard. Once the home to the Doge and the site of Venice's main prison, the building is an art work in itself with its frescoes, friezes and gilded ceilings. The Doges' apartments contain the work of some of Venice's most esteemed Renaissance artists.

18th Century Art

The 18th century was the beginning of the popularity of landscape painting. Constable, Gainsborough and Turner grasped the opportunity to produce great works of art in this genre, and although Constable and Thomas Gainsborough largely kept their subject matter close to home, JMW Turner looked further afield for grand landscapes to interpret.

Turner and Canaletto most famously captured the 18th century landscape of Venice and their works are largely the reason why, when visiting Venice for the first time on school trips, it may look somehow familiar to students. Canaletto, translated as 'little canal', was born in Venice and his wonderful paintings of the canals and buildings of the city were often sold to Englishmen on their Grand Tour. He later travelled to England and amongst his British landscapes is his depiction of Westminster Bridge. Turner's journey to Venice started in Covent Garden in London, but as a young man he travelled extensively in Europe including many visits to Venice. His ability to capture the unique light of the city is legendary.

It is easy to see, when you witness the views of Venice first-hand, why many artists have been inspired to paint them. The results of their labour will ensure Venice remains alive in your memory long after you leave her to return home.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reevaluating the Black Power Movement - From Mayor Richard G Hatcher to President Barack Obama

Though misunderstood and misrepresented by the media and its opponents, the 1960s Black Power movement touched every aspect of American culture, and like the "New Negro" Movement of the 1920s, African Americans came of age, becoming self-determining and racially conscious. Black people- sharecroppers, unionists, welfare and tenants rights organizers, students, intellectuals, poets, musicians and singers and politicians-grounded in the ideology of Black Power, began to organize around controlling their own lives and institutions. The movement pointedly questioned the capacity of America's democracy to extend justice, citizenship and equality of opportunity to African Americans, castigating America for its failure to live up to the principles of democracy.

Unfortunately, the confrontational style and practice the Black Power Movement has obscured its pivotal role in transforming American democracy. Yet, its cultural and political mode of thought and practice- its assertive posture, strong rhetoric and uncompromising critique-permanently altered the political landscape of America as well as the identity of African Americans. At a time when blacks were still referring to themselves as "Negroes", ashamed of being black, of their hair, and their African heritage, the movement for power by black people in 1966 roared on the national stage transforming the consciousness of African Americans. Thus, coined and popularized by Kwame Toure, Black Power captured the spirit and imagination of black people, setting a new national agenda with international ramifications.

To be sure, the Black Power movement imagined the possibilities for black empowerment and American democracy. Its unflinching call for the promotion of black history and black studies; its Pan African impulse; its far-reaching criticism of racism at home and imperialism abroad, expanded the dialogue and parameters of the black freedom struggle. Resultantly, black people began to turn inward, using their cultural strengths to push back against racism and to affirm their own humanity and to embrace an African centric worldview. So far-reaching and so expansive was the tentacles of the Black Power movement that no venue or sector was untouched by its vision and critique. The Black Power salute in the 1968 Olympic by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, for example, was the most overly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. The salute was part of a protest to call attention to the injustices black Americans were facing.

Another sector heavily impacted by ideology and direction of Black Power Movement, was the music industry. The music in the late 1960s began to reflect the influence of the movement- James Brown, Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud, the anthem for the Black Power Movement, Nina Simone, To Be Young Gifted and Black, The Temptations, Message From A Black Man. Besides this, the "Natural", a hair style which evolved into a cultural and political statement for black men and women, and the dashiki, which became the dominant form of dress for African Americans, were representative of the African centric perspective of blacks.

Politically, at both the local and national level, black people started to organize around the three ends of Black Power-self-respect, self-determination, and self-defense. In 1967 the first Black Power Conference was held in Newark. A Black Power Manifesto came out of this conference, condemning "neo-colonialist control" of black populations worldwide and calling for the circulation of a "philosophy of blackness" that would unite and direct the oppressed in common cause. In 1972 Black Power advocates, organized and called for a State of the Union meeting, first National Black Political Convention. Delegates included elected officials and revolutionaries, integrationists and black nationalists, Baptists and Muslims (the widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X- Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz- both attended). Participants were buoyed by the spirit of possibility, and themes of unity and self-determination.

In a real sense, Black Power ushered in a new black politics. In Dark Days Bright Nights, Peniel Joseph, argues persuasively that the politics of Black Power included a "cultural ethos that redefined black identity by promoting defiantly popular images of racial pride and self-determination." Peniel adds that Black Power "waged a war of attrition to in order to implement Black Studies programs...established independent schools, educations centers, cultural centers, and think tanks...the new black politics featured alliances between elected officials and black nationalist militants, and a cultural movement that used art to expand black consciousness and helped forged an international legacy that viewed African liberation as the crown jewel of a global revolution." Peniel concludes that all of this in turn "planted seeds that partially inspired post-Black Power era anti-apartheid activisms," and that; "If the civil rights worked from the outside-in by paving the way for legal and legislative reforms, Black Power worked in reverse, imbuing the race consciousness and pride within the African American communities upon which much of contemporary black identity is based."

In brief, unlike the Civil Rights Movement, which has had its signal events incorporated into the fabric of America's political and cultural institutions and historical memory through the media and academic historians, the Black Power Movement has been defined by its excesses and demonized by the media and marginalized in history of the 1960s. Yet, failure to recognize the achievements of the Black Power Movement and rescue its legacy serves only to diminish the history of the social justice movement, including civil rights, and the contemporary racial justice movement. To be sure, this Movement made significant accomplishments in transforming African American politic and culture, and in reforming American institutions: laying the groundwork for the Jesse Jackson's candidacy for the Democratic 1984 and 1988 presidential nominations, the election of Ron Brown as the first African American chair of the Democratic National Committee, and the election of Barack Obama, the first African American elected President of the United States of America.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who Do Admire Enough to Want Their Autograph?

I'll go first, because I asked the question. Besides several distant presidents and the likes of Michelangelo, Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin, I am thinking of the more recent past. I doubt if I could ever afford a Shakespeare signature, which is said to be the most rare of any kind. And Jesus never signed anything, to the best of our knowledge. No, I would have to settle for someone else. I'm an artist and gravitate toward certain painters. Over the years, of collecting fine art, I've managed to obtain signed works of everyone from Picasso and Marc Chagall to Leroy Neiman and Peter Max, my most recent. But, let's be more objective. Who is admirable and why would one want their signature or autograph?

We have the right to envy other famous people for what they have accomplished and who they were. We desire a part of them and a signature is something quite personal. If it happens to be on a photo, album, t-shirt, or other specific document, then all the better. It brings us closer to them in a way that allows a cosmic connection, while providing a degree of satisfaction. Which brings me back to the main question.

Some former presidents come to mind. I loved Kennedy until that fateful day in Dallas. Many TV stars were my heroes, like Rod Serling for his writing and anyone on Star Trek, but they were just actors. I loved the Beatles and Billy Joel, for their amazing writing and music. I think highly of any inventor and other creative individuals. In the business world, there is Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Warren Buffet, to name a few movers and shakers that have altered the corporate landscape.

We have our share of prolific writers like Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Dean Koontz. Yet there are so many to worthy to choose from, where do you begin? Neil Armstrong who was the first to walk on the moon or perhaps Prince Charles, the future King of England? On a personal level, my wife treasures a book signed by Eleanor Roosevelt. I have a personal letter from Salvador's Dali's secretary while he was staying in New York and a signed photo. I also have a photo of Robert Redford taken at an event I attended. But I have someone else in mind on the top of my "most admired" list. He was someone that changed America and arguably, the world. His vision, creativity, and passion was to affect children and families for decades to come. It began with a mouse featured in a movie named Steamboat Willy in 1928 and the rest is history.

Walt Disney made animated movies and redesigned the American theme park. Today there is barely a man, woman, or child on this planet that hasn't seen part of his legacy. Whether it's an image of Mickey Mouse, one of the many Disney-Lands, toys, pictures, or TV shows, his stamp is everywhere. I sought out something special of his that could not be faked or duplicated. Today, I own a check he signed in 1963 out of his Anaheim bank account while he was building Disney World. It was authenticated by Phil Sears, a noted collector and verifier of Disney memorabilia. It makes me smile every time I look at it, just to remember the joy that Walt brought, and still brings, to millions.

I may buy a few other autographs of other influential people, but none will be as special. So, was it worth the expensive and effort? I'll say yes for myself without any regrets. Walt passed away in December of 1966 at the relatively young age of 65. That check is and was part of his legacy because it helped fund his many projects. But enough about my collection.

Who would you love to connect with via a signature or autograph? Who is a hero or heroine to you? What part of their legacy or successes would you like to share by way of a signature? Even if they passed away, you could probably still obtain one like I did. The Internet is a great resource with dozens of legitimate businesses that specialize in that subject. By the way, if you like my articles and have followed my career, I'd be more than happy to send you my signature, although I wouldn't count on it going up in value any time soon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Top 10 Tips For a Great Holiday in Spain

UK and worldwide advertising by the Spanish National Tourist Office emphasises the multi-faceted nature of the country. Different regions all offer unique landscapes, lifestyles, cuisine and opportunities for exploration.

Spain is a country of sleepy villages where the siesta is still observed and wonderful meals are served not before 3pm for lunch and 9pm for dinner. This is traditional Spain - and you don't have to travel far from popular resort areas to find it.

But of course, Spain is also the hustle and bustle of the big, modern cities - with international standard hotels, major art centres and museums. Sporting legacies from the Olympic Games of 1992 as well as the fanatically-followed football teams all add to the mix of non-stop attractions for city breaks or multi-centre visits. Of course, Spain also has some of the most dramatic landscapes and seascapes in Europe.

So: here are a set of Top 10 Tips which reflect the best of Spain:

Beaches: From the cosy coves of the Costa Brava to the vast acres of golden sand on the island of Fuerteventura, there is a beach to suit you whether you like a busy resort or a strip of sand near a fishing village.

Nightlife: The Spanish like it long and late and you're more than welcome to join in. Check out a traditional flamenco show or the hottest sounds on the disco island of Ibiza.

Food: Tapas bars have brought Spanish cuisine to many countries, and you will soon discover it is as varied and delicious as anywhere in Europe. Don't forget rice-based paella, Spain's national dish.

Wine: There are wine growing regions all over the country, the best-known being La Rioja in the north. Visit Jerez to see the home of sherry and check out the little known vintages of the Canaries.

Art: Spain has produced world-renowned painters ranging from classical Velazquez to surrealist Picasso. Madrid has some of the finest art museums in the world.

Cities: All the buzz and excitement of Spain comes together in the capital, Madrid; and Barcelona, the Olympics city by the sea. Also look at up-and-coming Seville, Valencia and Palma.

Nature: Spain is home to many national parks, such as the Picos de Europa in the north and Donana in the south. Tenerife has Spain's highest peak, Mount Teide.

History: Did you know the Moorish Arabs ruled Spain for seven centuries, and that their legacy includes the fabulous Alhambra Palace in Granada? You'll find palaces and castles everywhere.

Shopping: Big city stores such as El Corte Ingles rub shoulders with colourful traditional markets. The Canaries are a duty-free zone.

Touring: Hire a car or take your own, and discover the "Real Spain" along the back roads. Touring routes include the White Towns of Andalucia.

There you have it - 10 great reasons for a holiday in Spain - and 10 great reasons to go back for more.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Georgia O'Keeffe - The Legend of Modern Abstract Art

Georgia O'Keeffe or Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American painter, who revolutionized the concept of modern abstract art. Born on November 15, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O'Keeffe grew up in Virginia. She graduated from the Chatham Protestant Episcopal Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1904, and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905) and the Art Students League of New York (1907). She later moved to Texas and headed the Art Department at the West Texas State Normal College in 1916. The charm of the barren landscape caught O'Keeffe's fascination, tilting the balance of her artistic skills towards capturing the beauty of the valleys and plains that surrounded her.

Georgia's paintings drew up a close-up view of desert flowers, backdrops, cow skulls, and Calla Lilies. Her work won her a passionate audience. Her artistic brilliance was first noticed in her charcoal drawings of bud and flowers in 1916. Ace photographer and art gallery director of 291, Alfred Stieglitz, whom Georgia later married, exhibited 10 of her drawings in the same year. She had the knack of capturing and representing natural beauty in her own distinct ways. April 1917, O'Keeffe held her first solo show at the art gallery, 291.

1920s witnessed some of the best artworks of O'Keeffe. Her first large scale flower painting, "Petunia, No.2 (1924)," was first exhibited in 1925. She canvassed the buildings of New York in "City Night and New York--Night (1926)" and "Radiator Bldg--Night, New York (1927)." In one of her painting, 'The Black Iris (1926),' she magnified a flower beautifully, giving it a startling and an unusual look. Later in her career, O'Keeffe introduced different patterns of the sky, which she observed during her travels by air. Her mural, 'Sky above Clouds (1962-63),' is one of her largest illustrations.

Georgia O'Keeffe finally settled down in Abiquiu, New Mexico, after her husband's death in 1949. She continued to fascinate the world with her emotive and simple paintings of exotic southwestern landscapes. By the time her illustrious career ended with her death in 1986, Georgia had carved a niche for herself and had left behind a legacy, which became a major source of inspiration for the other artists.

O'Keeffe always maintained that anything around her that came to her notice and intrigued her, she simply brought to the canvas. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowments of the Arts Washington, DC in 1985, which was presented to her by President Ronald Regan. She was also awarded the Medal of Freedom, which is the nation's highest civilian honor. The National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded her a Gold Medal for Painting. She also held the distinct honor of being the first woman to exhibit her art at the Museum of Modern Art.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Travel Guide to Cardiff

A city of positive outlook, Cardiff is a town designed by the richest man in the 19th century, the 3rd marquess of Bute, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart. He left a legacy of great architecture that can be seen in the Cardiff Castle and the Civic Center. While preserving this legacy undamaged, this town is gradually adjusting itself and going with the 21st century.

The Cardiff Castle had been once a spot of ancient ruins which the Bute family developed into landscaped grounds and kitsch. This family was also responsible in making Cardiff the world's greatest coal port. In line with this, in addition they got the Pierhead Building created. It is a red-colored brick French Gothic Renaissance building that was built to stir maritime traffic. You can even see the Llandaff Cathedral, another one of the popular architectural sites in Cardiff. It is a beautiful church built on the area of a monastery set up by St. Tielo. The symbol and center of the regeneration of Cardiff Bay is the Wales Millennium Centre. It is considered an architectural work of art of various colors of piled Welsh slate and a bronzed steel shell.

The Coal Exchange was the center of the Welsh coal trade. In 1908, the 1st check for one million pounds was written by a coal merchant. Today, arts and performances tend to be housed and hosted in this building. Cafe and stores are located in the harbor of Cardiff at the Mermain Quay. Throughout the Cardiff Festival, a carnival happens here and samba bands and dance troupes are readily available. This is a great place for shopping and taking a leisurely stroll. Remember to check out the Goleulong 2000 Lightship. This is found near the Norwegian Church on the harbor. It houses the Christian center exactly where you'll be able to find a bookstore, cafe as well as displays. You may also see the small cabins and climb the lighthouse to acquire a view of Cardiff.

Above the shopping street in the city center is the Gothic lantern tower of the Church of St. John the Baptist. It is a 15th century parish that exhibits stonework on the exterior which is so sensitive you'd believe it was filigree. Elegant arches enhance the inside of the church and this is a terrific spot to acquire some peaceful time from the hustle and bustle of the street.

Environment: Like Wales, Cardiff's climate is generally unstable. It can be wet and windy, cloudy and gray, or downright sunny. The rainy season begin in October and goes through right up until winter so the best time to go to Cardiff is in the summer or spring. The days are long and warm in summer but there can be a lot of travelers sightseeing as well. If you want to avoid the crowds, go in spring.

Transportation: You may rent a car, motorcycle or bicycle to reach notable places in Cardiff. You can also take the official black taxi to get around Cardiff. They can be hailed in the street, ordered by phone or you can go to the taxi stops located outside the train station, Duke Street, or at the corner of Greyfriars Road and Park Place. There are buses that also cover different destinations in and around Cardiff.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

RIP MJ - Long Live the King

When first hearing the news, initially the first thing that when into my mind was that "Nah, it can't be true. it's a lie." Then when, other news sources (CNN, Yahoo, etc.) began to confirm the story, it was shocking and total disbelief for me. It was bad enough to hear about the death of Farah Fawcett a few hours earlier and now the news that Michael Jackson is gone. I was too young to remember when Elvis Presley passed away in 1977 and I was in second grade when John Lennon was assassinated in1980, and in my lifetime the deaths of Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Tupac Shakur in 1996, Notorious BIG in 1997, Aaliyah in 2001, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in 2002 and James Brown in 2006 were huge, Jackson's passing was was the biggest on them all.

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was when he was with his brothers in 1979 with the song "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground." As a six-year-old, I couldn't remember any of the the words in each verse, but I do remember singing ( at least try to sing) the chorus of the song around my house after hearing in on the radio. Another memory took place on Christmas 1982, when my mother bought us for the family gift the Thriller album. It was a total surprise for us being that the album was just released a few weeks earlier that month. Who knew that it was going to be the biggest selling album of all time (According to SoundScan: 100 million and still counting.)

The last memory was five months later in May 1983. My brother and I had to go to bed because we had school the next day, but my mother asked us if we wanted to stay up and see Motown 25 ( NBC was showing the television special that night.) Of course we said yes and we watched the show. You could not believe what you saw on in that special, seeing Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Temptations, The Four Tops performing on stage, as well as The Jackson 5 reunion and Michael's classic performance of "Billie Jean."

His performance was something that my classmates and I talked about at school the next day. This was the days before TiVo, Internet, Youtube, MySpace, Facebook and any other social networking sites where someone would post the video clips online immediately. Unless you had the money for a VCR ( and not too many of us did back then) you had to see it live because if you missed it, then you missed a great performance.


1984 was the year that everyone wanted to be like Mike( this is before another future global icon with the initials MJ who would make a name for himself around the NBA later on that year with the Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan.) It seemed in that year alone, anything record Jackson sang on, whether it was his songs, any collaboration (See: "State of Shock" with Mick Jagger and "Say Say Say" with Paul McCartney) or just provided background vocals (See: Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me; with his brother Jermaine on "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming" and his sister Rebbie on "Centipede." that song was going to be a hit. If you were a Michael Jackson fan in 1984, the height of "Michaelmania" ,you wanted to do to not only dance like the man but also dress like him as well. My funds at the time didn't allow me to buy the "Beat It" jacket; the "Thriller" jacket; a chance to go to the Victory Tour, or get myself a jheri curl ( it crossed my mind, but I never did get one-but my friends did though--man, seeing those care free curl activator bottles and the plastic caps that went along with it brings back memories though.) But my funds did allow me to buy the 45s of some of the singles that were released off the "Thriller" album.

A Trailblazer

"Billie Jean" was the first music video shown on MTV that was done by a black artist. It is hard to believe now when you see the channel, but MTV did not show any videos from black artists (even though Rick James, Evelyn Champagne King, Gap Band, Ray Parker Jr. ,Earth Wind and Fire had already made music videos, the network wouldn't show them because there were not rock videos. )Walter Yetnikoff, President of CBS Records, issued an ultimatum to MTV, either they will show "Billie Jean" or they will never receive any more videos from any artist on the CBS Records music roster and the network will be exposed for their policies. MTV gave in and began to show Billie Jean on a regular basis. Jackson was able to change the concept of a music video. It went from a promotional tool to something of a mini-movie. The challenge was thrown to every artist out there in the music business: if you just want to sing in your video, that's fine, but if you want your video to stand out, you had to either act and/or dance in order to get some attention from the public. Jackson's appeal crossed racial, gender, age, and social economic boundaries. The blueprint for his success was the label he started out his recording career with: Motown, where Berry Gordy's plan was to have R& B music acts that would crossover to the pop charts.

A flawed Genius

The man was a great singer/ songwriter, a fluid dancer (he was a student of James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly , the Nicholas Brothers, plus he added elements of Hip-Hop, Broadway, Jazz and Tap to his dance repertoire) :a humanitarian (he donated time and money to charitable causes along with visiting sick children in hospitals, clinics and shelters here in the United States and all around the world); smart businessman ( buying the Beatles catalog was an excellent and sound investment.) and a excellent on stage performer ( as a music act, you better bring in every night and give the audience their money's worth- a lesson that Jackson always followed in each and every concert.)

Unfortunately, the last 15 years has been fodder for the tabloids. Whether it was about his plastic surgery
( Did he go took far- yes!) his questionable behavior in public ( Should hie used better judgment when he was in the public eye-Yes!)his spending habits ( Did he spend beyond his means in the later years- Yes!) his entourage ( did he surround himself with people that really did not look for his best interest, especially those hangers-on that were only around just to bleed money from him- Yes!) his "disappointing" album sales after Thriller ( According to SoundScan: 1987's Bad album sold 8 million copies in the U.S and 30 million worldwide with 6 top 10 hits including 5 songs that hit No.1) 1991's Dangerous album sold 7 million in the U.S and 32 million worldwide with 6 top 10 hits. and 2001's Invincible sold 2 million in the U.S. but 10 million worldwide with 2 top ten hits- pretty good for an album that had little promotion by Sony Music; wasn't part of a world tour and virtually ignored by mainstream pop radio.) and his two well publicized court cases involving young children (the ironic thing is prior to the 1993 case, Michael was on a media tour with the super bowl performance that January, doing print and tv interviews and showing up on award shows- then the stuff hit the fan that summer and that was it. The 2005 case was very evident that it really took its physical and emotional toll on him.)

The Legacy lives on

Despite the media pretty much tried and convicted him for having a bizarre personality while documenting his trials and tribulations on a regular basis; Despite the media also saying that he is a has-been in today's music landscape; despite being a polarizing figure in the court of public opinion; and despite being the punchline for jokes for late night comics, Jackson has always maintain a loyal following not only here in the United States but also around the world. His impact in the music industry throughout the years has created a new generation of musical acts and dancers who were definitely influenced by Jackson whether it by his singing style with the voice inflections or dancing style, where the moves are precision-like and tight.

Jackson was on his way to perform a series of concerts in London later on this month and sadly, we will never know how it would have turned out.

Final Words

Was the man a saint? No. Jackson had a horrible childhood and as a adult, he developed an addiction to plastic surgery, and as what we have learned recently in the news, to prescription drugs. But the man was not the monster or freak that the media made him out to be. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about Jackson, but memo to United States Congressman Peter King: "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Lastly, while there are worthy contenders out there to be the next King or Queen of Pop of today's music landscape, there will never be one like Michael Jackson- end of discussion.

Rest In Peace- Michael Joseph Jackson- The Greatest Of All Time

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Experience the Royal Saga During Rajasthan Tour

Rajasthan is one of the known tourist destinations of India. It is visited by large number of tourists throughout the year for memorable holidays. Jaipur, Udaipur and Mount Abu are the world renowned tourist destinations of Rajasthan.

The blended charm of desert landscapes, royal forts, beautiful palaces, vibrant culture, colourful fairs and festivals make Rajasthan a favoured destination among tourists. The nature's scattered beauty and preserved cultural heritage of the bygone era enthrall tourists during their Rajasthan Tour. It is the place where tourists can feel the charm of royal era of raja-maharajas. This state has several tourist destinations which are famous across the globe. Mount Abu, Jaipur and Udaipur are among the famous destinations of Rajasthan.

Mount Abu

This is the only hill station of Rajasthan renowned for its pleasant climate, heritage buildings and wonderful religious sites. It is a beautiful destination located at the tip of the Aravali Mountains. Because of its salubrious climate, serene and scenic ambiance this place is quoted as the green oasis in the desert land. This is a hill retreat where tourist comes in a large number to spend holidays.

This place is also a sacred pilgrimage of the Jains and Hindus. The Dilwara Jain Temples are the foremost tourist attractions of this place. These Jain temples are known across the globe for exquisite carvings on pillars, ceilings, walls and floors. Some of the other famous tourist attractions of this place are Shri Raghunathji Temple, Nakki Lake, Museum and Art Gallery, Honeymoon Point and Sunset Point.


Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan. Popularly known as the Pink City of India it attracts tourists from far and wide. It is renowned across the globe for its rich cultural heritage and historical monuments which mesmerise tourists during their Jaipur Tour. Hawa Mahal is the most famous attraction of this place renowned for its Mughal, Persian and Indian styles of construction and decorations. It is an architectural legacy chiselled out of white marble and red sandstone. The other popular attractions of this place are City palace, Amber fort, Jantar Mantar and Nahargarh fort.


It is counted among the romantic cities of the world which calls on large number of visitors from across the globe. This beautiful place is famous for its royal palaces, gardens, lakes and temples. Large number of tourists comes here throughout the year for spending memorable and pleasurable holidays. The blend of man made grandeur and natural wonder showcases the elegant beauty of this place. The famous tourist attractions of this place are Lake Palace, City palace, Saheliyon-ki-Bari and Solar observatory.