Friday, 29 January 2016

Looking At Dubai

Beyond its record-setting group of skyscrapers, Dubai also features plenty of other architecture worth a gaze.

Head to one of the many corniches (waterside roads) for a decent view of Dubai's skyline.

Consistent architectural style? Are you kidding? Here are adjoining resort hotels on Palm Jumeirah Island.

A look from the same island back to mainland Dubai.

Curvy. A skyscraper in the new downtown and one of the spaceship-like metro stations.

The best building in Dubai, a smartly-scaled, wonderfully-clad swiss cheese meets coral rock concoction.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Visiting Dubai's Burj Khalifah, Part Two

Time to see what life is like at the top of the Burj Khalifa. Unfortunately, the public isn't allowed to the top, not even close. Floors of the Burj: 160. Observation deck floor: 124. Matters when gazing: zip.

It's all about the "I was there" photo. "Snap it, B*tch."

Random details. Looking higher, definitely a lot of floors above. At the exit, more propaganda, this time related to the construction and design team. Give yourselves a hand. We think you just did.

Who has the silliest pose? Which side of the camera?

Layers of photo-taking.

As usual, exit through the gift shop.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Visiting Dubai's Burj Khalifah, Part One

Wanna make an easy statement? Tell everyone that the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world. It's not even close. The mighty Burj is 2,717 feet high. Next up, Shanghai Tower at 2,073 feet. Feeling small yet? In Dubai, the next tallest tower is only half the height of Burj Khalifa, topping out at only 1,358 feet (the Princess Tower, aptly named). Like we said, an easy statement.

The big Burj, dominating the skyline. What skyline?

Don't worry, they didn't run out of construction materials. In the shadow of the tower, they're still busy building.

Time to visit, see what all the fuss (and view) is about. Before heading up, a little video propaganda viewing. Also down at ground level, a model. As if it's hard to envision the world's tallest building.

OK, wow, it's quite a view. The Burj does cast a long shadow.

The new Dubai downtown, somewhere down there. To the left, the world's largest shopping mall. In the center, all that blue is a giant fountain (world's biggest?), complete with Bellagio-style dancing waters.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Scenes At Dubai's Souk

There's a little of the Old World in Dubai, mainly in the Souk and surrounding area. Busy shop stalls selling textiles and spices, old boats on a nearby inlet.

One of the Souk streets.

Stopping for a quiet breakfast.

The coffee to go window.

A look at the old style maritime scene.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Shooting For Ford In Dubai

Ford's Middle East division shot a set of commercials in Dubai and James was lucky enough to join in the fun.

One of the coolest locations for the shoot was the souk, a rare feature of Dubai that predates all the modern skyscraper building.

The star of the souk, the Ford Focus, live and on monitor.

A photogenic extra, waiting for his closeup. 

Wait! Twins! Out of the souk and onto the next vehicle, the new Mustang. Vroom.

You can't shoot in the Middle East without featuring the desert.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Curious Graffiti In Vilnius, Part Two

Moving past the holy-themed graffiti in Vilnius, we come to a war on graffiti itself. Or are we fighting fire with fire?

Here's a section of graffiti in Old Town, Vilnius. What's that white paper? Has the graffiti, dare we proclaim, been defaced?! Can an element of defacement be itself defaced? Are we entering an M. C. Escher vortex?

Doubtful. These warnings over the evils of graffiti have sprouted all over town, promoting a variety of back-up to their cause.

First, they're just telling you what "they" have done before. Don't kill the messenger. Or the comma challenged.

Second, time to strike some fear. Hard money and hard time. According there another Detroit?

Finally, offering original opinion. And a longer prison term threat.

More graffiti, more cover up.

So what's the deal? Legitimate anger over the proliferation of the spray arts around town? It seems so, but where are the references of where to go to join the cause, the web address, the email, phone number? Or some sort of local backing? Citing Detroit isn't going to get you anywhere.

More likely, a provocative shot across the bow of street/performance art. Ultimately, like the graffiti itself, clear purpose and authorship remains a mystery.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Curious Graffiti In Vilnius, Part One

We've shown you the plethora of graffiti in Vilnius, whether with a message or stenciled. One person's eyesore is another person's expression.  It's mostly all in fun and vandalism.

Recently, there appeared a little graffiti war in the Vilnius streets, one tinged with civic anger, one tilting a bit holy.

These little paper cut-outs have been plastered around Old Town.

Taking a closer look, the image appears to be of an immaculate nun wearing a hijab. OK.

Upon inspection, it gets a bit interesting, some handwritten scrawl along the top, telling you where the nearest church is located. It's no accident, these posted bills have been strategically and surreptitiously placed near the same church mentioned on the paper.

The name of the church changes, depending on the post's location. It's not a mass media slather campaign. Someone has taken the time to place the posts where they want and to hand-write a specific church name in English.

Meaning? One could take them as innocent, plain plea church recruitment posters. All of Europe is losing the flock, at a record pace, maybe Lithuanian churches are looking for members. 

Then you need to start thinking about the specific Lithuanian context. There aren't many muslims in the country and reaction to accepting immigrants from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries has been tepid at best. The image on the poster and the writing could be interpreted as a not-so-subtle critique of the "other" coming to the country and not embracing assimilation.

Interesting times in the streets of Lithuania. Next up, clean up the filth and garbage of graffiti. Or adding to it?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Embassy Visits An Orphanage

One of the nice deeds the US Embassy does every year is a visit to an orphanage at holiday time, to bring presents and spread a little cheer. Right before Christmas, the van/sleigh was loaded up and the elves/family members headed out to the town of Pabrade.

The orphanage tree,  nicely dressed with presents.

Unloading the sleigh. Starting off with a warm up cupcake bribe.

Works every time!

Getting to know the kids, sharing a laugh. They made Christmas cards and nervously handed them around.

Getting down to business, distributing presents.

The theme? Bring on the athletic gear. "Ooh, nice trainers!"

Winter is here, it's nice to wear a new coat.