Trying to Take Back the Trophies!

Having won both our FIFA trophies (for best player and best goalscorer) in the last FIFA with the Boys get together at the end of last year, and then sadly relinquishing the best player trophy in our last meeting (and first of 2015), I was needless to say looking quite forward to our second encounter for this year, eager to regain the glory that is owning both trophies.

As per usual, the meeting point on Monday afer work was Ryan’s bachelor’s pad, and with two brand new competitors entering the fray (Michael Garrett and his brother Jeff) – making for six trophy challengers on the night – competition was guaranteed to be fierce.

(However, what wasn’t fierce was the amount of snacks available on the night. It starts getting weird when the guys all start talking diets and losing weight…)

Anyway, we got down to action pretty much as soon as there were enough people to fill the slots, and with my calculated scoring and matchmaking patterns guiding the plays, what followed was an intense evening of kicking about a virtual ball, scoring some brilliant goals, and even more importantly, chuckling at the insane amount of bad luck that newcomer Michael was experiencing (so, so many unlucky red cards and goal post misses!).

With the skill levels in the room all pretty much on par, the games were particularly tight and there were no big scores and no big win margins. It was tight, sweaty stuff, and at midnight when the final whistle blew, the tally up kicked off in earnest.

15 games were played on the evening, with each player (Damen Oosthuizen, Evan Granger, Ryan Lotter, Jeff Garrett, Michael Garrett and myself) having played 10 games each, and quite fairly,  every single player played with every single other player two times as a team, meaning the stats were all fair and above board.

Make no mistake, the winning margins for both best player and best goal scorer were tight, well less than a handful of points/goals in it!

Which of course then makes it PARTICULARLY sweet that I walked away with BOTH trophies on the night. (Insert smug, grinning face here!)

craig lotter wins both fifa trophies

It’s a pity about the poor light in Ryan’s kitchen at midnight. Even my selfie didn’t come out too great – too many shiny structures kept photo bombing me… ;)

craig lotter wins both fifa trophies selfie

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

This post is now well overdue. The skeleton has been sitting in my Drafts folder since December last year, but honestly, I just haven’t felt like writing it up. I’ve had a few stabs at it, but never actually ended up with a finished product – which is kind of silly considering the fact that, taking all things into consideration, 2014 was actually a pretty good year for the Gordon’s Bay Lötter clan.

However, seeing as this “Goodbye Hello” post is pretty much an annual thing for this blog nowadays, I guess I have no choice other than to adopt a “better late than never” stance and pretend that 2015 is just kicking off… despite the reality that we’re into our third month of the new year already!

baby emily lotter smiling with daddy craig lotter

Of course the biggest talking point for 2014 was without a doubt the birth of our adorable little girl, Emily Jane Lotter. She was delivered on 13 January at Vergelegen hospital, and with no major drama like what we had with Jessica, she was back home and in our care from the get go.

Turns out, raising a child is actually a hell of a lot easier the second time around, mainly because by now you know the ins and outs of looking after a baby and can pretty much operate on autopilot – not that it isn’t a LOT of hard work of course, but still, it certainly is a lot easier this time around! :)

Of course, things were also made a little easier by the fact that Jessica was already three by the stage that Emily arrived, meaning losing Mommy’s full attention wasn’t the complete end of the world to her – though there were of course moments when jealousy would get the better of our little blonde princess!

Pleasingly, other than an annoying reflux problem that Emily struggled with as a little baby (leaving her permanently… well soggy), it’s been a doddle navigating her through her first year, and our good-natured, cute as a button baby girl has certainly proved a fantastic edition to our little clan!

jessica lotter rocking her rainbow dash swimming costume

Talking about Jessica, 2014 really was the year she blossomed into a confident little girl, who, although not particularly adventurous, is an open and seriously friendly child with an almost constant smile on her face and a playful twinkle in her eye.

During the course of the year she learned to ride a bike, made lots of friends, developed her first fangirl crush (hint, it’s the My Little Pony franchise!), and of course, thanks to the brilliant teachers at Vergeet-My-Nie playschool, is coming on in leaps and bounds when it comes to all sorts of social and artistic abilities!

And then there is the ballet, Playball and running around the complex, all of which really is rounding off my precious little girl!

jessica lotter sitting next to chantelle lotter

As for Chantelle, well she’ll have to say for herself whether 2014 was a good or a bad year from her point of view, though I suspect that despite all the hard work and lack of sleep that came with the territory of her juggling both her Chantelle’s Cupcakery baking business and raising a newborn little girl, the joys of her expanded little family pushed the positives right up there to the top of the pile.

And myself?

Well I had an a pretty enjoyable year thank you very much.

craig lotter, ryan lotter, terrance brown, yuko brown in japan

Lots of Daddy time was spent with my two daughters, there were some major shake-ups at work, I now work more from home than in the office (because, well, there isn’t very many people left in the new smaller, leaner Touchwork), and of course, then there was all the getting out and about adventures that filled up most of the year (Jacobsbaai, Piekenierskloof, Montagu, Mossel Bay, and Langebaan to name but a few), not to mention the big two weeks in Japan with Ryan for Terrance’s wedding getaway! (A trip on which I still have a lot to post – all in good time, I promise).

From a financial point of view, 2014 was a little tighter than what it needed to be, primarily because in the end, Chantelle’s little baking business simply wasn’t bringing in enough money to allow things to be comfortable for everyone. Still, we covered all our costs, even tried to sell the house for a bit, and like I just said, sneaked in more than just a few weekends away!

From a personal growth point of view… well not much going on there I’m afraid (just as it hasn’t been for the last couple of years mind you), but as I’ve stated before, and I’ll do so again, currently my number one priority in life is to be the absolute best dad for my two little girls that I can possibly be – and that suits me just absolutely fine for the moment!

chantelle lotter hugging jessica on a trampoline

As for 2015, well I expect it not to be all that different from 2014 to be honest. Sure, I don’t have the birth of a new child or the big Japan holiday to look forward to this year, but already there a quite a few developments on the cards which can only spell good things going forward.

For starters, Chantelle has pretty much hung up her baking boots (she’ll still take the juicy big orders though) in favour of a position back at Gordon’s Beach Lodge – which in turn means our finances get a bit of a boost and which therefore ultimately means that we have a little more in the piggy bank at the end of each month – all of which needless to say makes me a VERY happy chappy!

On the work front, the lack of distractions thanks to the smaller (almost non-existent) team means I can now at last really get cracking and finish up with my epic Kinetica project that has tied me up for the last couple of years, a prospect that certainly excites me more than just a little.

Oh, and this is also the year I take back control of my weight and actually start living like a thin person again – and I’m off to a great start thank you very much… though more on that in another post I think.

Finally, to wrap everything all neatly up, I expect 2015 will be much like 2014 in that I’ll spend just about every free minute with my girls – which as we all know by now, is the very best thing I could be doing with my time anyway!

So here’s to a prosperous 2015 – we’re already off to a good start! ;)

 

Picnic in Kirstenbosch (2015-03-01)

I checked – the last time that we’ve had an outing to the world famous Kirstenbosch gardens was back in early 2012 in celebration of Ryan’s birthday. Well, fast forward three years and things have gotten a fair bit busier – after all, Mom and Dad now have four lovely grandchildren to dote on instead of just little Jessica as it was back then! :)

IMG_20150301_110657 - chantelle lotter with jessica and emily at kirstenbosch

With Chantelle off from work on Sunday, I thought a nice family picnic out to Kirstenbosch would be just the ticket, but as it turned out, neither Claire, Riley, Ryan or Robert could make it, meaning that in the end it was to be a day out for the kids and the grandparents – which is never a bad thing anyway!

Leaving the gale force winds of Gordon’s Bay behind, we made the trek through to Table Mountain, where on arrival we were rather surprised to find that the main parking area at Kirstenbosch was already full – meaning that we were diverted to the overflow parking area.

Eventually we had trudged our way up to the gardens, bought our tickets (Kirstenbosch really is worth the R50 entrance fee), and set about trying to link up with Monty and Cheryl, who had arrived a little earlier than us (we were held up leaving from home thanks to an epic throw up from Emily that pretty much decimated her entire cot!).

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The hook up didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned though – Monty and Cheryl had managed to come in via a different gate to us, and in the end, Kirstenbosch is simply too big to rely on luck in terms of randomly spotting another couple that you’re looking for!

After lots of huffing and puffing, marching about, and a lot of frustrated phone calls, we did eventually find one another, and more importantly, found a delightful little picnic spot close to a dam (so, so many overly friendly birds!) and with a LOT of shade to cover us for the day.

Mom and Dad on the other hand managed to miss out on all the shenanigans (they went to church first), by cleverly arriving a lot later and thus simply having us meet and lead them back to the picnic site! No hassle, no fuss! :)

IMG_20150301_150756 cheryl and ronnie lotter in kirstenbosch

Apart from a minor incident with a park official who wanted to fine Dad for bringing a chair in (honestly, we didn’t know that you are in fact not allowed to do so), what followed was a wonderfully tranquil day of lazing about, grazing on all sorts of picnic food, rolling around on the grass with the kids, and of course catching up on all the news, like Monty and Cheryl’s recent trip to Warmwaterberg Spa and Mom and Dad’s trip to New Zealand.

We did of course HAVE to also check out the recently unveiled Boomslang canopy walk, a park addition which I have to really commend it must be said. A beautiful bridge with fantastic views, and a cleverly implemented idea at that.

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I think we were probably in the park for something like five or six hours if not more, and at the end of a long day (we all got rather sun burnt – even Jessica now that I look at it), with the crowds flowing in for the evening’s Goldfish music concert, we packed up from our little spot and bid a fond farewell to everyone – bringing to an end what can only be described as a day of perfect relaxation.

IMG_20150301_123557 craig lotter with emily selfie in kirstenbosch

And pictures? Or course I caught more than just a few with my trusty old Huawei phone:

Related Link: http://www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch

At Root 44 on Japan Day 2015 (2015-02-28)

Well that’s a bit embarrassing isn’t it? You see, I was on daddy duty with the girls on Saturday thanks to Chantelle working, and so I thought it would be nice to get out for a bit with a trip first to Root 44 Market, followed by some time in Stellenbosch.

The embarrassing bit is that it turns out that Saturday 28 February was The Office of the Consul of Japan in Cape Town’s Japan Day at the Root 44 market on the Audacia wine estate – and I pretty much took absolutely NO photos at all.

Zip, zero, zilch.

In other words, you’ll just have to take my work for it then! (Below? Not my photo.)

kendo at japan day 2015 at root 44 market

With our shopping at Somerset Mall done and dusted, Jessica, Emily and I then headed down the R44 until we reached the Audacia wine estate, ready for some Root 44 market action. As we climbed out of the car, the distinctive sound of taiko drums being beaten could be heard – in fact, it was our usual Helderberg culprits in the form of the Tamashii Daiko drumming troupe!

We had in fact just arrived for the start of Japan Day 2015, and dotted around the market were all sorts of Japanese related tables and exhibitions, from Bonzai to Calligraphy to Sumi-e art, and Origami to koi fish to Ikebana flower arrangement – and even a display of traditional Japanese children’s toys!

The main stage featured a continuous rotation of displays that included things like the taiko drumming, aikido, Japanese flute playing, kenjutso, kendo, karate, Japanese food preparation – and of course cosplay. (It goes without saying that the Cape Town Cosplay crew pretty much always show their faces if an event even mentions the words Japan or comic book!)

Anyway, perhaps the reason for me not taking any photos was the fact that the girls weren’t too interested in all of this going on around them – as far as they were concerned (well by ‘they’ I mean Jessica), we were there for one thing and one thing only – pancakes!

IMG_20150228_113532 jessica lotter waiting for pancakes at root 44 market

Of course, this DID mean that after much ambling about, we settled down with some pancakes, playfully devoured them, and then spent much time playing in the kids’ area on all the slides and swings – which needless to say both Jessica and Emily rather enjoyed.

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With the market (and thus Japan Day 2015) done and dusted, my next leg of the day out with the girls was a scenic drive down Adam Tas to meet up with Baden Powell, travelling past Spier and then into Stellenbosch, all with the plan to hit the market up at the Oude Libertas amphitheater.

However, on arrival there, my plans were somewhat dashed when I found both Jessica and Emily to be fast, fast asleep, and so in an effort not to disturb my two little sleeping beauties, I instead drove through Stellenbosch in the direction of home, stopping only once we were back in Somerset West in order to surprise Jessica with an McDonalds ice cream.

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Of course she decided to then pick a burger and chips instead. Sigh.

IMG_20150228_132453 jessica lotter at mcdonalds

Still, it was a great day out with my two little girls – as always! :)

 

Music: Jack Parow – P.A.R.T.Y (2012)

What, another Jack Parow track so soon after the other?!? What can I say, I like this man’s music! No idea why, I just do. (Chantelle gives me funny looks every time she sees me tapping my foot to these ridiculous tunes!)

Jack Parow

If you missed the quick biography last time around, here is the quick write-up grabbed off electromode.co.za:

“Thirty three years ago, Zander Tyler was born in Parow, Cape Town. Today he is known as Jack Parow, original donker dodgy afrikaans rapper. Contrary to popular belief, his wild-fire success did not happen overnight. Jack started out rapping with crews from the Cape Flats and has been at it for thirteen years. It’s been almost six years since his breakthrough in 2009 and since Jack Parow has released his first self-titled full length album that struck gold within two weeks of its release and went platinum within a year; headlined at major festivals in South Africa; toured Europe and played before packed out shows there; and then followed it all up with another two seriously popular studio albums! His songs are hits on national radio stations and he has been on prime TV shows and on covers and centerfolds of publications in South Africa and in Europe.

Jack Parow’s self-titled debut album (2010) sold almost 45 000 units which made this sexy romantiese Afrikaans rapper a force to be reckoned with.”

Anyway, from his 2012 album re-release Eksie Ou (Special Edition), here is Jack Parow with the perfect year end holiday song, “P.A.R.T.Y”:

Related Link: http://www.electromode.co.za/artist_JackParow.html

Comic Book Art: Captain Britain and MI:13 by Brian Hitch

Pete Wisdom couldn’t save John the Skrull. He couldn’t save anyone he cared for. Being in his unit can be fatal. So now all else seems lost, now Plokta’s engine for making Mindless Ones is threatening the world… what will he sacrifice to save the Black Knight?

Issue 8 of the horror action series Captain Britain and MI:13 was published in December 2008 by Marvel, with the story written by Paul Cornell with interior art from Leonard Kirk. Comic book artist Bryan Hitch handled the cover work, coming up with a scenario that sees a hopelessly outnumbered Captain Britain punching things left, right, and center!

comic book art captain britain and mi13 issue 8 captain britain punching by artist bryan hitch

Not that it was only the good guys wrapping this issue – comic book artist Humberto Ramos also pitched in and produced this striking villain variant cover for Captain Britain and MI:13 issue 8:

comic book art captain britain and mi13 issue 8 by artist humberto ramos

Related Link: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/22951/captain_britain_and_mi_13_2008_8

Music: Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues: Payday (2015)

Comedians Nic Smal and Gareth Allison make up the Youtube singing comedy duo of Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues (thank you Carte Blanche for providing the naming ammo), and have been having us South Africans chuckling along for quite a while now with their ridiculously silly songs that pretty much make fun of everything popular right now.

(My favourite without a doubt was Braai Day, released back in 2011 in preparation for South Africa’s National Braai Day (held 24 September every year) parodying the viral sensation that was Rebecca Black’s “Friday”.)

derick watts & the sunday blues - Nic Smal and Gareth Allison

Anyway, quick bio grabbed off the 27dinner.com (who knows why it’s up there) site:

“Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues have made waves both locally and internationally with their unique brand of comedy, using YouTube as their platform of choice. Known for their tongue-in-cheek parody music videos (“Braaiday”, “The Car Guard Song”, “Movember Song” and most recently “Hipsters & Hashtags”) as well as their original animated series (“Chat Sandwich”, “Hippo & Croc”), their work has been featured on sites such as TIME Magazine, Huffington Post, The Telegraph and Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die. They were also adjudged by Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee as winners of the international Movember video competition in 2012, beating out hundreds of entrants worldwide.

The duo, consisting of Nicholas Smal & Gareth Allison, recently signed with Los Angeles-based network The Collective, and have worked with local favourites Ard Matthews, Dr. Michael Mol, Rob van Vuuren & even Derek Watts himself on some of their videos.”

Right. And now for a description culled from Youtube itself:

“Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues return with their most ridiculous song yet! This time the boys chronicle the journey of two ordinary young men who splurge out & live large on payday, their spending sprees making those of celebrities like P. Diddy and Nicki Minaj look dull in comparison!

Alas though, reality comes back to bite them and they have to figure out how to get by for the rest of the month until payday comes around again. Will the boys learn their lesson this time around?

Featuring guest appearances by Jack Parow, Jeannie D, former-Miss South Africa Cindy Nell & The Kiffness, it’s the song everyone can relate to – PAYDAY!”

So, resonate much anyone? :)

Related Link: https://www.youtube.com/user/wearethesundayblues

The Bambino Roadster Car Seat is Back Again!

It’s hard to think that back in 2011, around Jessica’s first birthday we splashed out and bought a pretty fancy car seat in the form of the Bambino Roadster. Four years later, and just after Emily’s first birthday, we’ve retrieved the Bambino Roadster from storage (thanks Monty and Cheryl for finding the cupboard space for it!), dusted it off, and set it up for round 2 of serving the Lötter family!

emily lotter sitting in the bambino roadster car seat

Although, when I say dusted it off, and set it up for round 2, it turns out that the process wasn’t quite as simple as what I make it out to be. You see, as with most baby/toddler used equipment, the Roadster was pretty damn dirty – full of unidentified smears and stains, and more importantly, full of lengthy cat hair. This of course meant that Chantelle deemed it due a wash in the washing machine.

So she dutifully took everything apart, washed it, and then over the course of the next MONTH, tried to reassemble the thing! (Basically, the Roadster is a pretty damn complex chair to try and figure out!)

In the end, Chantelle resorted to calling up Michelle Oosthuizen, the encylopedia of all child-related things, and when verbal instructions failed, Michelle recorded a full on tutorial video, which became then the key to Chantelle finally finishing (with a lot of swearing) the puzzle that is the disassembled Bambino Roadster car seat!

Of course, I just stood by and smirked, chuckled and in general found the whole ordeal particularly funny from start to finish. After all, I told Chantelle not to mess with the damn thing in the first place!

However, that said, my heart did break for my poor wife, because the very next morning after finishing putting the chair back together, she handed Emily a banana for breakfast. Sadly for Chantelle, Emily was all over the Bambino Roadster like an ant in a sugar bowl, resulting in the Roadster completely covered in smeared banana – stains which don’t just wipe off thanks to the Bambino’s type of material covering.

Sigh, looks like someone will have to disassemble again! :)

Spur, Root 44, and Boerewors Rolls

As per usual, we had a nice and busy weekend, with things kicking off on Friday when Chantelle abandoned us for Bellville in order to go and watch the much hyped 50 Shades of Grey movie with Natasha and Michelle Garrett. She opted to take Emily with in order to leave her with Ouma and free up some Daddy/Daughter time for me with Jessica, and taking full advantage of this generous offer, I picked up Jessica from Vergeet-My-Nie at the end of the work day and headed off to the Gordon’s Bay Spur!

jessica lotter with face painted like a buttefly, courtesy of spur

Needless to say, Jessica was particularly excited, even more so when we were handed a table literally next to the play area! For the next hour and a half she was bobbing between playing in the kids area (our Spur has really jacked this part of their operation up!), eating food and drinking pink milkshake with her dad, and running around with two other random little girls who seemed to be having just as much fun over at the Spur as what she was!

jessica lotter drinking a spur pink milkshake

(Footnote: I didn’t stay up to find out how much Chantelle enjoyed the BDSM-tinged 50 Shades of Grey movie – which as it turns out was quite a lot – but I am rather pleased to report that I didn’t wake up chained to the bed or something like that the next morning).

With Chantelle working and an Eskom loadshed looming, Saturday morning saw me escape to Somerset West with the girls for some retail therapy (no, actually just household and DIY shopping – lightbulbs seem to be really, really expensive these days, not to mention the price of garden tools!), followed by a visit to the always busy, always pleasant Root 44 market at Audacia.

There it was to be pancakes, playing in the sand pit and of course going down the slides (yes, even Emily joined in) that was the order of the day!

jessica lotter at the sandpit at root 44 market

The rest of the afternoon/evening was pretty uneventful now that I think about it – Chantelle and I attempted to watch Liam Neeson getting rather confused in the movie Unknown, but sadly as we got just over half way, Chantelle’s gentle snoring and permanently shut eyes became a subtle enough hint, and so we abandoned the film for some much enjoyed bed time.

emily lotter at the sandpit at root 44 market

Sunday was work day for Chantelle once more, but I had more than enough on my own plate to keep me busy. I had invited all the friends around for a Boerewors braai at our place – the first informal get together at Country Mews of the friends in I don’t know how long!

Anyway, all the rushing around paid off, because by the time our guests in Michelle, Damen and Logan, and Evan, Natasha and Evalynne arrived, everything was set up and ready, meaning that chilling in the driveway around our newly bought outside table could commence in ernest!

What followed was an enjoyable afternoon of chatter, boerewors and spanspek, and even a short trip to the park here in Country Mews. Of course, boys will be boys and FIFA did at one point get hauled out and played – and to make things even better, Ryan eventually showed up in Gordon’s Bay, coming through for a visit and some FIFA following his outing to the Art of Brick exhibition in Waterfront earlier in the day.

Eventually though, the day and early evening were done, and with the kids in bed and the last of our guests gone back across the Boerewors curtain, Chantelle and I settled down to finish off the enjoyable Unknown (for the record, Chantelle didn’t quite make it – she’d have to catch the ending again the next morning), rounding off what was a great little weekend.

3D Projection Mapping in the Wild: Yokohama Odyssey

Whilst on our Japanese trip last year, Ryan and I completely by accident stumbled on one of the most amazing technological displays that I have ever witnessed – projection mapping out in the wild.

yokohama japan dockyard 3d projection mapping yokohama odyssey by hiroaki higashi ad nobumichi asai

If you are not familiar with the concept (which at the time I wasn’t), Wikipedia sums it up thus: “Projection mapping, also known as video mapping and spatial augmented reality, is a projection technology used to turn objects, often irregularly shaped, into a display surface for video projection. These objects may be complex industrial landscapes, such as buildings. By using specialized software, a two- or three-dimensional object is spatially mapped on the virtual program which mimics the real environment it is to be projected on. The software can interact with a projector to fit any desired image onto the surface of that object. This technique is used by artists and advertisers alike who can add extra dimensions, optical illusions, and notions of movement onto previously static objects. The video is commonly combined with, or triggered by, audio to create an audio-visual narrative.”

What we witnessed is a 7 minute projection mapping audio/visual spectacular entitled Yokohama Odyssey, directed by Hiroaki Higashi and Nobumichi Asai.

The Yokohama Odyssey turns what is known as The Dockyard Garden, once a real dockyard, and now an important cultural property (i.e. it’s a bit of history), into a projection mapping theater in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Yokohama Minato Mirai, the central business district of Yokohama. It takes you through time, looking at Yokohama’s past (including the rebuilding after the Great Kanto Earthquake), it’s present and even its (imagined) future.

It is an overwhelmingly incredible sight that enthralls you from start to finish, and of course, the fact that you are in the shadow (figuratively of course – it is night time and there is a LOT of lighting) of the massive Landmark Tower makes it that much more impressive!

Things moved and transformed, whirred and clanked, and quite frankly… well, perhaps you should just check it out for yourself:

As my first introduction to the technology of projection mapping, the Yokohama Odyssey kind of now holds a special place in that I’ll compare everything thing back to that from here on out. But once you’ve become aware of the technology, projection mapping is bound to make your jaw drop!

(In particular, check out Nobumichi Asai’s latest project, the creepy real-time face tracking and projection mapping called Omote. It is literally insane and has to be seen to be believed! Make-up artists might just become extinct if this goes mainstream…)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projection_mapping

Things to See in Russia: The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Commissioned by Catherine the Great, it was created by the French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet. The name comes from an 1833 poem of the same the name by Aleksander Pushkin, which is widely considered one of the most significant works of Russian literature.

The statue is now one of the symbols of Saint Petersburg, in much the same way that the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of New York City (interestingly enough, both were designed and built by French artists).

The statue’s pedestal is the enormous Thunder Stone, the largest stone ever moved by man. The stone originally weighed about 1500 tonnes, and was carved down to 1250 during transportation to its current site.

catherine the great's the bronze horseman statue with its thunder stone in st petersburg russia 1

The equestrian statue of Peter the Great is situated in the Senate Square (formerly the Decembrists Square), in St. Petersburg. Catherine the Great, a German princess who married into the Romanov line, was anxious to connect herself to Peter the Great to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the people. She ordered its construction, and had it inscribed with the phrase Petro Primo Catharina Secunda MDCCLXXXII in Latin and Петру перьвому Екатерина вторая, лѣта 1782 in Russian, both meaning ‘Catherine the Second to Peter the First, 1782′, an expression of her admiration for her predecessor and her view of her own place in the line of great Russian rulers.

(Having gained her position through a palace coup, Catherine had no legal claim to the throne and wanted to represent herself as Peter’s rightful heir.)

catherine the great's the bronze horseman statue with its thunder stone in st petersburg russia 2

In 1775 the casting of the statue began, supervised by caster Emelyan Khailov. At one point during the casting, the mould broke, releasing molten bronze that started several fires. All the workers ran except Khailov, who risked his life to salvage the casting. After being remelted and recast, the statue was later finished. It took 12 years, from 1770 to 1782, to create the Bronze Horseman, including pedestal, horse and rider.

The tsar’s face is the work of the young Marie-Anne Collot, then only 18 years old. She had accompanied Falconet as an apprentice on his trip to Russia in 1766. A student of Falconet and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Collot (called Mademoiselle Victoire by Diderot) modelled Peter the Great’s face on his death mask and numerous portraits she found in Saint Petersburg.

The right hand of the statue was modelled from a Roman bronze hand, found in 1771 in Voorburg in the Netherlands at the site of the ancient Roman town Forum Hadriani.

catherine the great's the bronze horseman statue with its thunder stone in st petersburg russia 3

The statue portrays Peter the Great sitting heroically on his horse, his outstretched arm pointing towards the River Neva in the west. The sculptor wished to capture the exact moment of his horse rearing at the edge of a dramatic cliff. His horse can be seen trampling a serpent, variously interpreted to represent treachery, evil, or the enemies of Peter and his reforms. The statue itself is about 6 m (20 feet) tall, while the pedestal is another 7 m (25 feet) tall, for a total of approximately 13 m (45 feet).

For the pedestal, an enormous boulder known as the Thunder Stone was found at Lakhta, 6 km (3.7 mi) inland from the Gulf of Finland in 1768. It is considered the largest stone ever moved by man – it was effectively moved 6 km overland to the Gulf of Finland by manpower, rollers, and capstans, then transported by barge up the Neva River to St. Petersburg. According to the fall 1882 edition of La Nature, the stone’s dimensions before being cut were 7 × 14 × 9 m. Based on the density of granite, its weight was determined to be around 1500 tonnes.

(Falconet had some of this cut away shaping it into a base, so the finished pedestal weighed slightly less.)

catherine the great's the bronze horseman statue with its thunder stone in st petersburg russia 4

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Horseman

Comic Book Art: Fearless Defenders: Valkyrie by Mark Brooks

Come for the banter, stay for the surprises! Everything Valkyrie knows about her origin is wrong! And Caroline LeFay unleashes her Doom Maidens upon the world! (So many exclamation marks. And after that official synopsis from Marvel, I still don’t know what happens in this issue!)

Anyway, Fearless Defenders #4 was published in May 2013 by Marvel, written by Cullen Bunn, with interior art from William Sliney, and featuring this fun homage to those dress them up paper cutout dolls from yesteryear (depicting Valkyrie choosing between her identities) from comic book artist Mark Brooks as the cover.

comic book art fearless defenders 4 sexy valkyrie by artist mark brooks

Not that this was the only artwork released for this particular issue. Comic book artist Stephanie Hans turned out this slightly more serious, darker in tone, variant cover featuring Valkyrie front and center!

comic book art fearless defenders 4 valkyrie by Stephanie Hans

Related Link: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/46072/fearless_defenders_2013_4

Music: Jack Parow – Ode to You (ft. Nonku) (2014)

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion before that Afrikaans zef rapper Jack Parow is a bit of a guilty indulgence for me. Seriously, earphones in, Jack Parow blasting, and me coding at the keyboard is a combination that is hard to beat! :)

south african afrikaans rapper jack parow sitting at the bar

For those of you not familiar with him, here is a quick write-up grabbed off electromode.co.za:

“Thirty three years ago, Zander Tyler was born in Parow, Cape Town. Today he is known as Jack Parow, original donker dodgy afrikaans rapper. Contrary to popular belief, his wild-fire success did not happen overnight. Jack started out rapping with crews from the Cape Flats and has been at it for thirteen years. It’s been almost six years since his breakthrough in 2009 and since Jack Parow has released his first self-titled full length album that struck gold within two weeks of its release and went platinum within a year; headlined at major festivals in South Africa; toured Europe and played before packed out shows there; and then followed it all up with another two seriously popular studio albums! His songs are hits on national radio stations and he has been on prime TV shows and on covers and centerfolds of publications in South Africa and in Europe.

Jack Parow’s self-titled debut album (2010) sold almost 45 000 units which made this sexy romantiese Afrikaans rapper a force to be reckoned with.”

Anyway, from his 2014 Nag Van Die Lang Pette album release, here is Jack Parow, featuring vocals from Nonku, with the brilliant “Ode To You”:

Related Link: http://www.electromode.co.za/artist_JackParow.html

Things to See in Russia: Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia. It is also variously called the Church on Spilt Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, its official name.

The Church is built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. It should not be confused with the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, located in the city of Yekaterinburg where the former Emperor Nicholas II (1868–1918) and several members of his family and household were executed following the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ aka The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in st petersburg russia 1

Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.

A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while plans and fundraising for a more permanent memorial were undertaken. In order to build a permanent shrine on the exact spot where the assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had been driving could be included within the walls of the church. An elaborate shrine was constructed at the end of the church opposite the altar, on the exact place of Alexander’s death. It is embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, making a striking contrast with the simple cobblestones of the old road, which are exposed in the floor of the shrine.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ aka The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in st petersburg russia 2

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg’s other structures. The city’s architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

The Church contains over 7500 square meters of mosaics – according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. (This record may be surpassed by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which houses 7700 square meters of mosaics). The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day – including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel – but the church’s chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known at the time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church’s construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million rubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics – the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures – but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services).

The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ aka The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in st petersburg russia 4

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Savior_on_Blood

Blame the Romans for February’s 28 Days

Joe Hanson is a science writer responsible for PBS Digita Studios’ It’s Okay to Be Smart Channel. In this really accessible, but still pleasingly informative video, Joe runs us through as to just why February gets the weird day count of 28 (and sometimes 29) instead of the usual 30 or 31 – as he neatly puts it, “The answer is part superstition, part politics, and parts astronomy. (Basically, it’s the Romans’ fault!)”

And now you know.

joe hanson it's okay to be smart presenter - be curious

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_calendar