Saturday, April 30, 2022

Album Covers with Trains on Them – Part II

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A mosaic of 16 music album covers with trains on them.


We couldn't just leave it at one post about trains on album covers, so here's part II for the one out of 10^9 (10 billion) viewers who asked!

In the first post Music Album Covers with Trains on Them, we knew most of the artists and music presented. In this batch of 16 album covers, we didn't know any of the artists except for Al Greene. We post these music-mosaics of silliness as part of our (and hopefully your) process of discovering new music. Lots to choose from in this batch: skiffle, jazz, soul, country, rock, folk, and blues. The albums cover five and 1/2 decades: from 1961 to 2014.

For visual and word interest, we'll call out two covers: Pulley's "Esteem Driven Engine" (2008) and Balsam Range's "Last Train to Kitty Hawk" (2008).


1961 Jimmy Smith – Midnight Special: The Incredible Jimmy Smith
1967 Al Greene – Back Up Train
1968 The Ethiopians – Engine 54
1970 The Walkers – Skiffle Train
1972 Hank Snow – The Jimmie Rodgers Story
1973 The Fivepenny Piece – Makin' Tracks
1974 The Seldom Scene – Old Train
1988 Jaki Byard – Blues for Smoke
1993 Michael Katon – Get on the Boogie Train
1996 Pulley – Esteem Driven Engine
1997 Los Suaves – San Francisco Express
2001 Backstreet Girls – Tuff Tuff Tuff
2002 Cartman – Go!
2008 Balsam Range – Last Train to Kitty Hawk
2011 Stoner Train – Rusty Gears
2014 Rosemary's Triplets – Hellbound Train



Sunday, April 17, 2022

Music Album Covers with Trains on Them

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A mosaic of 16 music album covers with trains on them.
A mosaic of 16 music album covers with trains on them.

In this batch of 16 albums, the train symbolizes power or plays on our nostalgic notions of trains. Over half the albums here have a title that relates directly or indirectly to trains. The albums shown here span 1962 to 2019. From this small sample, 1970s was the decade of train imagery.

We could not exclude Kraftwerk's 1977 seminal Trans Europe Express, celebrating the titular European railway service. The Trans Europ Express, or Trans-Europe Express (TEE), was an international first-class railway service in western and central Europe that was founded in 1957 and ceased in 1995. For this Kraftwerk release there were many different album cover versions. Here we use the image with the train on it obviously.  Also see: Album Covers with Trains on Them – Part II.


1962 Little Eva – Llllloco-motion
1968 The Box Tops – Non-Stop
1969 Johnny Cash – Story Songs of the Trains and Rivers
1972 Savoy Brown – Hellbound Train
1975 Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head
1976 Donny Osmond – Disco Train
1976 Mallard – Mallard
1976 The Outlaws - Lady in Waiting
1977 Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
1991 Mr. Big – Lean into It
1992 4 Non Blondes – Bigger, Better, Faster, More!
1993 Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish
1995 Banco de Gaia – Last Train to Lhasa
2005 The Darkness – One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back
2010 Alan Jackson – Freight Train
2019 The Be Good Tanyas – Blue Horse


Santorini Grape Vines – Kouloura Basket Shape

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Grape vine in Santorini showing the basket shape or kouloura.Grape vine in Santorini showing the basket shape or kouloura.A field of vines near Akrotiri, Santorini.
Left and center: Grape vines in Santorini showing the basket shape or kouloura.
Right: A field of vines near Akrotiri, Santorini.

Immediately upon arriving on the island of Santorini we notice it. In a taxi on our way up to Thira (Firà) at the crater's edge, we see fields that looked burned, with dead plants. We knew they were probably grapes, but the forms were so odd that we aren't sure.

The next day, near Akrotiri, we stop to walk into a field for a closer look. That's when we clearly see they are grapevines but coiled around themselves in a sort of basket form.

It's still early in the season, well before leaves come out, so that explains the lack of green. And the soil of Santorini is a mix of light pumice gravel, sand, and black lava stone. From a distance it can look as if the field was freshly burned, which explains the scorched look. That leaves the question of the shape of the vines.

After some research, we discover that the pruning system used, and pictured here, is called kouloura (meaning "coil", "basket", or "wreath"). The vines rest on the ground and with successive wrapping of the vine back on itself in a coil, a hollow center is created. In the center, grapes grow sheltered from the intense Aegean winds and the vine collects any moisture available in the morning or evening dew and funnels it to the roots. These are dry vineyards – no water is added – so it's all about protecting the fruit from excessive heat and gathering enough moisture to keep the vine alive. (Only the youngest vines may be watered to get them started.)

The basket or wreath vines shown in this post are still quite young. Search for kouloura and you'll see some fantastically shaped vines. There is another pruning technique known as koulouri or klada, where grape canes are shaped into a large hollow cookie which hangs almost vertically over the ground. We didn't see these.

Santorini is home to the oldest continuously farmed vineyards in the world. Furthermore, the volcanic soils protected the vines from phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, which devastated European rootstock.

Also surprising to us from Italy was the story of vinsanto or Santorini wine, not to be confused with Vin Santo – the Italian dessert wine. In 2002, the European Union named Santorini, Greece as Vinsanto's place of origin thus granting the island exclusive rights to the use of the name Vinsanto on its sweet wines. Italy may still use vin santo or vino santo to denote its winemaking style.

The varieties of grape typically grown in Santorini are white varieties assyrtiko, athiri, and aidani, and red varieties mandilaria and mavrotragano.

Some references reviewed for this post:

Also, see our companion post Doors of Santorini Greece and the Cycladic Blue and White.


Example of grape vines in Santorini trained in a basket shape called kouloura.Example of grape vines in Santorini trained in a basket shape called kouloura.Example of grape vines in Santorini trained in a basket shape called kouloura.
Examples of grape vines in Santorini trained in a basket shape called kouloura.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Doors of Santorini Greece and the Cycladic Blue and White

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Seventy doors of Santorini in a composite image.A view of Oia, Santorini.
Left: Seventy doors of Santorini in a composite image.
Right: A view of Oia, Santorini.

The doors


I swore we would not run around our weekend in Santorini photographing doors, and yet that's what we did. And it was during this madness that I realized just how cutesy and clichéd photographing doors is. Precisely, the realization came when I was in line to photograph a beautiful door in Oia, Santorini. So dear 3 readers, this may be our last door post! But seriously, we love doors. They are cool to look at and photograph.

We stayed on Santorini for two nights, based in Firá (Thira). We were travelling in a group of four and rented a car for two days to get around the island. We hit several spots that would have been a lot harder to do by bus (slow) or taxi (expensive): Oia, Akrotiri, Kokkini Paralia – Red Beach, Pyrgos, Ancient Thera, Kamari – Black Beach.

The doors shown in the composite image in this post are from the places mentioned above. A couple of things to note about the doors:
  • On some of the door thresholds or on adjacent walls you can see "eye charms", a depiction of an eye. These are to ward off the evil eye (mati). (Or to ward off people like us lusting after and photographing their doors?)
  • Not all the doors are the famous blue color associated with the Greek islands, and particular the Cyclades. (More on the blue color below.)
  • Not all the doors are beautiful. Ugly doors are cool too.
  • Some of the doors are purposefully missing panels to allow you to peer through and see what's on the other side. This trick is particularly used where there might be a restaurant or hotel that just has a door on the street and the rest of the building is hidden below the street (on the crater's edge). Seeing through the door, you catch glimpses of the horizon, the ocean, and other islands. A nice effect.

The last time we were in Greece, it was in Crete and while there were definitely some whitewashed buildings and blue, it was much less prevalent. Crete isn't part of the Cyclades and has the architectural stamp of many cultures: Minoan, Greek, Roman, Venetian, Andalusian Arab, Byzantine, and Ottoman.  See 12 Days in Crete and We Barely Scratched the Surface.

That blue and white


The views of Santorini and the Cyclades Islands we've all seen are of white-washed buildings with blue domes, set in rugged landscapes.  It's a provocative look - promoted by the Greek government and countless travel agencies and books alike - that seems to speak to some ancient tradition passed down through the generations. The images evoke the "nostalgic invocation of past paradise, when people could live in a microscale village." [6]

But alas, the truth about color is much more complicated and interesting in its own right.

Much has been written about the architecture of the Cyclades and we consulted only a tiny fraction of it to come up with our somewhat coherent account. From what we learned, yes, Cycladic Island architecture is a "thing" and that is exactly white-washed houses with blue accents.[1] During the age of pirates, the houses tried to camouflage themselves so as to not be seen and attract attention. Back then, houses were built of natural material and not painted at all typically. When piracy faded away, people started to get inventive with their house colors.

Enter onto the scene Ioannis Metaxas (1871 – 1941), who gets elected as Greek Prime Minister in 1936 (and then quickly became a strongman). Metaxas passes a law in 1936 requiring that Cycladic houses be painted only these two colors for at least two reasons:

  • There was a cholera outbreak. A "reason for Metaxas ordering all the island’s houses to be washed with lime was to protect themselves from the cholera that plagued Greece at the time. Lime was considered to be the most effective disinfectant, since chlorine was still not widespread back then." [2]
  • It was a deliberate attempt to bring visual order to the islands. [2] The white and blue would match with the sky and white foam of the waves. Before the decree, houses were a jumble of colors. Being a strongman, Metaxas perhaps disliked disorder? Metaxas would have not liked Burano for its colors. (See Two Days in Burano - Colored House Collage.)

It's worth keeping a few other points in mind that make the story even more compelling or shall we say "colorful".
  • First, the colors of the Greek flag are white and blue. A happy coincidence perhaps. The blue of the Cyclades is not the same as the blue used in the flag. In fact [5], the flag's blue shade isn't well specified at all.
  • Secondly, the white and blue could be easily made from materials at hand. [4] Instead of white paint, an easy-to-make and cheap whitewash was used. You can make it by mixing lime (white dust), salt, and water in specific proportions. The blue color came from a cleaning agent called Loulaki (blue powder) found in every home in Greece at the time. The blue of the Cyclades is referred to as Loulaki blue.
  • Whitewashing was not uncommon in the Cyclades. Villages would often be whitewashed in preparation for religious feasts like Christmas and Easter.
  • The influence of modernist architects including Le Corbusier plays a part in the blue and white story, but how is not exactly clear. The 1933 International Congress of Modern Architecture brought the leading lights in architecture to Athens. [7] Part of the meeting included a cruise to the Aegean with a stop at Santorini. The architects 'seemed' to see a connection - if not a foundation - for modernist architecture in what they saw. [9] The heady modernist thoughts carried weight and may have influenced Metaxas' 1936 decree on color and order in the Cyclades. Le Corbusier, upon visiting Mykonos (part of the Cyclades) is reported to have said: "Whatever architecture has to say, it is said here."

When Metaxas died, houses in the islands started to revert back to natural colors. Maybe all the forced order needed a release? But then, putting the top back on the pressure cooker, came the 1967 Greek junta mandating that island houses should be blue and white to inspire patriotism.

Today, a cruel master, called tourism, keeps the blue and white regime: tourists want to see the blue and white architecture. The article Live Your Myth in Greece: Towards the Construction of a Heritage Identity [6] points out that after the 1956 earthquake, the rebuilding styles were definitely affected by tourism and the desire of tourists to see certain architectural elements, even if those architectural elements were used out of context.

This takes us back to the start of our story waiting in line to photograph a door in Oia. Oia is considered one of the best examples of Cycladic architecture.

References:

Photo Essay



A photo shoot in Oia Santorini.Three intersecting colors in Oia Santorini.Steps with flowers leading from Amoudi Bay to Oia Santorini.
Left: A photo shoot in Oia Santorini.
Center: Three intersecting colors in Oia Santorini.
Right: Steps with flowers leading from Amoudi Bay to Oia Santorini.

Akrotiri Santorini - St. Epifanios Traditional Orthodox ChurchChurch of St. Mark the Evangelist, FirostefaniBelltower and dome of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Thira SantoriniFirostefani Santorini - Church of Saint GerasimosFira Santorini - Holy Church of Agios Minas
Different churches towers and comes of Santorini. From left to right: 1) Akrotiri Santorini - St. Epifanios Traditional Orthodox Church, 2) Church of St. Mark the Evangelist, Firostefani 3) Belltower and dome of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Thira Santorini, 4) Firostefani Santorini - Church of Saint Gerasimos, 5) Fira Santorini - Holy Church of Agios Minas.

View of Amoudi Bay Santorini.Octopus left to dry in the sun in Amoudi Bay.Donkey traffic in Oia Santorini.Santo a donkey statue in Fira Santorini.
Left: View of Amoudi Bay Santorini.
Center left: Octopus left to dry in the sun in Amoudi Bay.
Center right: Donkey traffic in Oia Santorini.
Right: Santo a donkey statue in Fira Santorini.


Archeological ruins at Akrotiri, Santorini.Vases at the Archeological site of Akrotiri, Santorini.Candlemas Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral - Thira Santorini.
Left: Archeological ruins at Akrotiri, Santorini.
Center: Vases at the Archeological site of Akrotiri, Santorini.
Right: Candlemas Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral - Thira Santorini.


Archeological site of Ancient Thera (Santorini) - road leading up to entrance.Archeological site of Ancient Thera (Santorini) – view east toward Anafi.Archeological site of Ancient Thera (Santorini) – view east toward Anafi.
Left: Archeological site of Ancient Thera (Santorini) - road leading up to entrance.
Center and right: Archeological site of Ancient Thera (Santorini) – views east toward Anafi.


Donkeys waiting for tourists on the Karavolades Stairs.Karavolades Stairs - from Thira Santorini to the old harbor.Karavolades Stairs - from Thira Santorini to the old harbor.Thira Santorini - Old Harbor at the bottom of the Karavolades Stairs.
Left: Donkeys waiting for tourists on the Karavolades Stairs.
Center left and center right: Karavolades Stairs - from Thira Santorini to the old harbor.
Right: Thira Santorini - Old Harbor at the bottom of the Karavolades Stairs.



Black pebbles of Kamari Beach Santorini.Late afternoon at Kokkini Paralia (Santorini).Red cliffs of Kokkini Paralia (Red Beach) in Santorini.
Left: Black pebbles of Kamari Beach Santorini.
Center: Late afternoon at Kokkini Paralia (Santorini).
Right: Red cliffs of Kokkini Paralia (Red Beach) in Santorini.


Sunset from (modern) Akrotiri village in Santorini.Sunset from Firostefani Santorini.Sunset over the caldera from Thira Santorini.
Left: Sunset from (modern) Akrotiri village in Santorini.
Center: Sunset from Firostefani Santorini.
Right: Sunset over the caldera from Thira Santorini.


The cliffs below Thira Santorini.Thira Santorini, western part - crater rim.Eye graffiti on the Karavolades Stairs.
Left: The cliffs below Thira Santorini.
Center: Thira Santorini, western part - crater rim.
Right: Eye graffiti on the Karavolades Stairs.


The stairs of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Thira Santorini.View of the Santorini caldera later afternoon.View of Thira (Fira) Santorini along crater's edge.
Left: The stairs of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Thira Santorini.
Center: View of the Santorini caldera later afternoon.
Right: View of Thira (Fira) Santorini along crater's edge.