Tag Archives: DPchallenge


This week’s Writing Challenge is about writing a story of 50 words. As this is an art blog or rather a blog on art appreciation, I thought it might be nice to launch a new category: art-inspired stories. If you like it, let me know, I’ll make it a regular feature.




She was a hardline atheist. “No exequy”, were her last words.

After the funerals, he slumped in the empty kitchen, afraid of now, mortified by tomorrow. So he prayed.  For her.

He realised there was God above when he felt… ascended.

My dear, he whispered, you were… ARE dead wrong!




He trained his dog to bring the top newspaper from the stack in the bedroom.

He would tell visitors his dog could read, and commanded it to fetch over The Times, then The Guardian, and then The Star.

It was important to remember the order the papers were stacked in.




Decade is a period of ten years.
Century is a period of one hundred years.
Millennium is a period of one thousand years.
“Together forever” lasts a fortnight.

That is, statistically.
That is, in about 90% of cases.

That is also why romantic mathematicians are so hard to come by!

Daily Haiku Thoughts on Art

This week’s writing challenge is about writing haiku verses for each day of the week. I was trying to blend ART + THOUGHTS ON LIFE + IMMEDIACY OF THE DAY into a daily haiku cocktail. Each haikyu is preceded by a picture for the day, with Friday already done because I know what’s going to happen then.

Haiku is usually built around the 5-7-5 syllable rule. I hope I calculated my syllables right.


Jeff Koons is branded
An artist because he sells.
So do Tide® and Heinz®.

Louis Vuitton put
A chest in the Red Square
The Shoppers’ Kaaba?


eL-Vee is bad taste
So branding Vlad Lenin’s tomb
Seems very fitting.


Snowfalls help to sell
winter tyres and summer art.
The brain has two sides.


Russia prays that you come
to the Games dressed well.


“Sometimes it’s Cosmos
Roaming in my mind“, was his reply
To simple question, “Why?”

Is it your first time here? To sample stuff in this blog, click on ABOUT at the top. You’ll find links to some of my best or typical posts there. There’s an Art & Fun shelf there if you feel like in need of a laugh. And don’t forget you can sign up for my new posts: there’s a “Follow this blog” form on the right.

Ambassadors: the secret of the green curtain

This is a long story of passion, art, and diplomacy I’ve been working on for quite some time. This is why I broke it in micro chapters for convenience, as well as suspense. You won’t be able to hear the story anywhere else. You have no choice, but to read on.

Analysis of an artwork is as much about knowledge of history, as it is about common sense, with the latter being often overlooked. Poor knowledge of history results in misinterpretation (stupid), a lack of common sense leads to overinterpretation (plain crazy). So, armed with history context and common sense we’ll try to discover and explain the last remaining secrets of The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, a painting that can be found in any book titled “100 (or 500 or 1000) paintings to see before you die”.

Scholars (give them a deep bow, would you please?) have explained the symbolism of almost everything that the eye can find in this painting. There are so many signs and symbols in there, I fear Dan Brown novelising it into another crime of his against history and the English language.

The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein

Almost everything has been explained. But not all.
What are the elements for which explanation is non-existing or shaky?

  1. Find the small crucifix in the upper left corner, right behind the green curtain. Why is it there? Why the green curtain at all? Why not a background more fitting to represent two ambassadors?
  2. The big skull at the bottom that is seen as an ugly blot from the front, but becomes a 3d skull if you look at it from a sharp angle. Why not paint a “normal” skull and be done with this “memento mori”?
  3. Why on earth did Holbein piled up all those objects? The Marxist critic, John Berger, believed it was done to symbolise wealth and the dawn of a new order of things when, colonies and tradesmen will be generating wealth, not titles. Others believe the portrayed characters wanted to show off their IQ with all this stuff. Who’s right?

Hans Holbein never played with objects unless there was some purpose behind it. So, what was his purpose, his grand design behind this painting – given that he couldn’t use any symbolism that would not have been agreed with the sitters first?

I promise to answer these questions, but first you need to imagine yourself a French envoy on a secret mission.

Click on page 2 (below the like and sharing buttons) to begin your transformation into a 16th century equivalent of James Bond!

Still life with a smartphone

Good people at Weekly Writing Prompts want to know if smartphones are a blessing or a curse.

The simple answer is that they are a curse in Paradise and a blessing in Hell.

Read on and it won’t seem a cryptic thought.

Smartphones make life easier.

Today, when your kid asks you, “Where do babies come from?” you don’t have to choose between the cabbage patch, the stork, or a melon seed. “They get downloaded” is the right and safe answer. Your smartphone – right in the process of downloading a map to the nearest toy store – can be shown as evidence. It is very likely in ten years your kids will be downloading baby-making instructions on their smartphones (make sure they can’t have access to the similarly instructive videos), so your answer is not only safe, but honest.

Ten years ago people thought mind-reading was at best science fiction and many a novel had been written about the way we could benefit from this faculty. Today, you use your smartphone to log on to Facebook or Tweeter and start reading other people’s thoughts anywhere anytime, without giving a minute notice to the miracle that’s in the making.

Smartphones make us all polymath. A smartphone owner can give the right answer to any question, after a brief consultation with online Wiki. Any smartphone owner is a “can-you-wait-a-moment-genius”. People had to study, read books, even write them occasionally to qualify before. Geniuses used to be one-in-a-million, now they are million-bar-few, but, well, a tad slower.

So, with smartphones we get smarter, which is a paradox as things people write and read mostly reside in the town of Crap-upon-Bullshit. Yesterday, while my steak (medium please) was cooking, I caught myself reading something about Zimbabwe internal politics. It had zero practical value, I’ve long forgotten what it was about, but remember it was somehow interesting to read. I am sure it will float up at the time of need, though I hope that kind of need won’t arise.

And here we come to the bane of smartphones.

It is increasingly difficult to tell a really smart person from someone who just owns a smartphone. Real geniuses capable of their own thinking and thoughts become lost in the shadow of people who can type really fast. The problem is that manual dexterity can’t take us to Mars (well, there are some types of massage that are believed to be able to “take you to the skies”, but I am not being metaphorical here).

Yes. Smartphones make our lives complicated.

You can’t text while holding it in your pocket. This alone is believed to have ruined a lot of otherwise happy marriages. No more “sorry (s)he’s back from biz trip day early dont come 2 my place!”.

Smartphoneophiles find it difficult to express emotions unless they can show a smiley with their hands. Grammar and punctuation become increasingly redundant, and the language gradually degrades to the times when people lived in caves and all looked like Chuck Norris.

Smartphones make our lives more dangerous than before. A safety coach today would tell you that lives are lost because instead of making it to the fire escape people keep tweeting about the fire.

Smartphone owners are insecure. When their gadget is misplaced, a part of the owner dies.

There are some people who get so hooked onto their smartphones that St.Peter felt it necessary to introduce a ban on them. “You can not take your smartphone beyond this gate”. Some righteous men went to Hell, voluntarily, because of that. Hell welcomes smartphones and promises unlimited access to the internet for the next 1000 years. You can text hell-to-hell only, but the management promises all the souls worth texting to will be there anyway.

Now you understand the simple answer at the top, right?

And, because this is a blog about art, I can not but welcome smartphones for their contribution to painting.

Yes, smartphones represent a chance for a certain revival of the still life genre in painting.

The primary law of a classic Dutch still life (17th c) says the viewer must feel the presence of people who are not to be shown. Like, the person in the painting was there a minute ago and is coming back any moment. Do you know why? Because they painted food and the viewer had to be sure the food is fresh even if the painting had been hanging on the wall for ten years. Look at this pile of food:

Dutch still life / Pieter Claesz

Dutch still life / Pieter Claesz

What makes it freshly pressable fresh? It’s the lemon. It has just been peeled, but not squeezed onto the lobster. It can’t stay looking fresh for long, it withers fast. So, those who are going to eat the lobster and the bread, are coming back.

Today, if you want to do a modern still life, what do you have to do?

You have to show a smartphone plugged into the wall.  Why plugged? Because it is the only way to show that the owner has not lost it, left it accidentally or on purpose (the latter though is highly improbable). A smartphone being charged is a sure sign that the person behind the painting is coming back any moment.

I would also like to thank addicted smartphone users. Guys, it is great to have you at neighbour tables at restaurants. It’s nice and quiet with you around.

PS If you had a laugh reading this, give me a smiley. How can I know I made you smile if you don’t post a 😉 ?

A willie SHALL NOT be used as a handrail!

Daily writing challenges get cruel. I have 10 minutes to write a post. They say, Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish. 

The first thing a man thinks about in a stressful situation is universally related to Penis. In some way. So, it will be a post about art (because this is a blog about art appreciation) and penis (because I am time pressed).

Modern kids are protected by laws and Disney from the bloody horrors of Greek myths and the incessant incestant activities of Olympic gods. I am certain sex used to be on the  roster of Olympic sports. Men competed naked then! Why would they be shaking their willies if sex was not on the agenda? An exemplary citizen of those times would be seen as a dangerous maniac today for his love of 12-year-old boys. An ancient Greek hero would be a contemporary war criminal! Take Hercules, who was so high on steroids, he substituted sex with killing people and endangered animals.

Those, who in the absence of parental control where made to study Greek myths, couldn’t miss the thriller of Hercules and his “Labours”. On his “mission impossible” No.8, Hercules was sent to bring over horses from King Diomedes, the horses rightful owner. To justify the heist, Diomedes had been accused of making his horses stick to a diet consisting of human flesh. No one would believe this lame excuse for a robbery today, and, quite possibly, even then you didn’t have to be Socrates to have some doubt about the concept of carnivorous horses. Sadly for Diomedes, if a man on steroids can believe the drugs he’s using are not harmful, he can be made to believe anything.

Hercules went there, broke in the stables, got the horses, and took them to his ship. Diomedes, simmering with external indignation and bursting with internal “WTFs” went after Hercules to ask for the horses to be returned. Who wouldn’t? Diomedes took a whole army with him, to support his arguments. Alas, Hercules wouldn’t listen. He killed everyone in Diomedes’s army and then threw the man himself to his horses, as a dessert.

The cruelty of Hercules went largely unexplained for most of human history, until 1550, when Vincenzo de’Rossi, a Florentine sculptor (currently believed to be the author of some statues previously attributed to Michelangelo), made this:

Vincenzo de’Rossi, 1550. Hercules and Diomedes. Florence. Palazzo Vecchio.

Yes. That does teach a man a lesson: if you are naked (high hats, baseball caps or crowns do not count) AND a strong man heaves you head over heels:

  • make sure you’ve had your private parts washed, deodorized and preferably made looking smaller than those of the strong man, for the chance to do it all during the fight are slim.
  • do not, under any circumstance, use the strong man’s willie for holding your weight or balance
  • if, inadvertently, your hand gets rested on the strong man’s wille (because it has nothing else to do while you are being strangled, do not gurgle out “Wow, I thought a strong man’s willie would be bigger!” or similar. Giggling should be avoided at any cost.

You see, even an ancient myth and some Renaissance art can teach a modern man a relevant lesson!

Thank God It’s a Half

I couldn’t miss this “Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful” for I wanted to share a joke relevant to this blog, and the Challenge as well. A joke about gratitude, science, religion and life in-between. Life, which happens to be governed by laws of physics and moral principles.

Those who revolt against the former are the ones given Darwin Awards, posthumously. The Church (any branch of it) believes those who rebel against the latter would face unpleasantries after the show’s over and the eternally endless second act of their existence begins.

I pity those who attempt to put a fight to both. Clasping the bulky Darwin Award under one’s arm  while swimming over the River Styx to the gates of hell is not at all convenient. There’s rumoured to be a boat there, but I am sure it doesn’t let such guys on board. Not even for a Russian-sized bribe.

Now, why this joke is relevant to this blog. I am writing a post about religious paintings which in the contemporary art world are seen as something “outdated”, belonging to the past, to art history. Religious themes are dismissed by artists. It’s the age of quantum physics, voyages to Mars, blogging and facepalming. Sorry, facebooking. Well, maybe it is. But think about the distantly remote possibility that there’s no internet in hell. Yes, hellboys can also go with the times. Does it make you shudder?

This joke is a reminder that there are two groups of laws, and that the religious theme in art is still very relevant, whether you are a religious person or not.


An aspiring PhD in Physics has been hit by a car while crossing the road. People rush to help him. After the chorus of “Are you all right?” (of course he isn’t) he briefly gains consciousness, his eyes flutter and he whispers, “OH, THANK YOU, GOD ALMIGHTY, IT’S ONLY A HALF!” and then he blacks out again.

“What is only a half?” cries out the crowd, while the more professional of them bring the scientist back to his senses. “A half of what?”, people keep wondering, and who wouldn’t: maybe it’s important. The medics arrive, the guy’s consciousness is back, but the crowd is eager to find out, “A half of what?”

“A half of the mass multiplied by velocity squared”  feebly mumbles the scientist before the medics take him away.

Explanation for those who played hooky when they had physics at school:

The kinetic energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the speed, multiplied by the constant 1/2. In formula form:

E_k =\tfrac{1}{2} mv^2

where m is the mass and v is the speed (or the velocity) of the body, in our case, the car. Were it not divided by 2, the scientist – in all probability – won’t make it.

There can be a time when we better be grateful to someone who is above Max Planck, even if some of us majored in quantum physics.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Minister of Magic expresses concern over GIF debate

I don’t know how, but the running theme of the weekly writing challenge (about whether gifs are art or just silly) somehow came up over lunch with a tech wizard guy from a limited-edition London newspaper the other day. It got him agitated beyond measure. Yesterday, he sent me an owl begging to go public with his letter. Well, here it is.


I am writing to you from the tech desk at The Daily Prophet to correct the erroneous question you have asked your readers to contemplate.

“Are animated GIFs the stuff of junior highschool hijinks or, are they the political cartoons of the new millennium?”

As we all in the wizardly community know, animated GIFs used to be neither, and now they seem to be both.

Just a few years ago, it was low-level magic used to resuscitate pixels.

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