Friday, September 20, 2013

Oisin, Niam and the Land of Youth

I now try to narrate an ancient Celtic tradition: Oisin, Niam and the Land of Youth.  Literature says that Oisín was a brave warrior, and a wise poet as well.  He was a member of the Fianna, a band of heroes who used not only to fight in the service of the kings of Ireland but to protect farmers and villagers from bandits and wild beasts as well.  Even today there are stories about them in various regions of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland.   The version I am telling now is the one I heard in Germany when I was a visiting student at Boon University.     Oisín was the son of Finn Mac Cumhaill, the head of the Fianna clan. This is the story of Oisín  Niam and the Tir na nÓg kingdom or land of Youth: the fairy realm, a place where its inhabitants remain immortal and who do not perceive the passage of time, at least not as we simple human mortals do.

There are several version on how Oisín went to the Tir na nOg kingdom.  One version said that the Fianna were skilful hunters, one day they were following the footprints of a mysterious deer that used to  hide itself behind the stones of  the shores of Loch Lena.  After two nights tracking the deer, Oisín suddently spotted the animal which was perched on a rock. The hero tracked the deer stealthily, in doing so walked into the jungle and suddenly he came upon the magic door of Tir na nÓg. Poets and pipers claim that the threshold to Tir na nÓg is everywhere, and that anybody can come upon a gateway to the kingdom.  They say that anyone who stays in that land can spend a thousand years feeling that only a few weeks have passed. Poets also say that in the kindong of Tir na nÓg nothing is missing, in its hills and under its sky no one can get older and that - according to Galway - "all good things are there."

Other version says that when Finn and Oisín with many companions were hunting on the shores of Loch Lena they saw coming towards them a maiden, beautiful exceedingly, riding on a snow-white steed. She wore the garb of a queen; a crown of gold was on her head, and a dark-brown mantle of silk, set with stars of red gold, fell around her and trailed on the ground. Silver shoes were on her horse's hoofs, and a crest of gold nodded on his head. When she came near she said to Finn: “From very far away I have come, and now at last I have found you, Finn son of Cumhal.”
Then Finn said: “What is your land and race, maiden, and what do you seek from me?”
“My name,” she said, “is Niam of the Golden Hair. I am the daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, and that which has brought me here is the love of your son Oisín.” Then she turned to Oisín, and she spoke to him in the voice of one who has never asked anything but it was granted to her.
“Will you go with me, Oisín, to my father's land?”  And Oisín said: “Yes, I will go with you to the world's end”; for the fairy spell had so wrought upon his heart that he cared no more for any earthly thing but to have the love of Niam of the Head of Gold.

Then the maiden spoke of the Land Oversea to which she had summoned her lover.  And what she said seemed sweeter and more wonderful as she spoke it than anything they could afterwards remember to have heard.  Then, Oisín mount the fairy steed and hold the maiden in his arms, and before they could stir or speak she turned her horse's head and shook the ringing bridle, and down the forest glade they fled.  Never did the Fianna behold Oisín the son of Finn on earth again.

Both version converge on how Oisín met with various adventures in the Land of Youth.  But after a weeks in the Tir na nÓg  kindom - actually hundreds of years in human’s time but only a few weeks to Oisín perspective – the hero felt nostalgia for his companions in arms, his clan, the hazards and the glory anybody experiences in a battle and he wanted to come back. In Tir na nÓg he was told that hundreds of years had actually passed and that in the wake of time his brothers had already died and that the world is not the same anymore to the one he had known. But these words did not persuade the stubborn heart of the hero.  So, he decided to visit for some days the world he used to live in.  To do so, Niram lent him a very fast horse, and charged him that when he had reached his land again he must never alight from its back nor touch the soil of the earthly world with his foot, or the way of return to the Land of Youth would be barred to him for ever. That is, he would die instantly. Finally, Oisín took up his journey to Ireland.

Once there, Oisín could not find the Fianna clan.  He could not see his village either.  He saw ruins only. He could’n heard the ancient songs of his clan. Instead, he found strange buildings, and realized - with great perplexity - that humans had become smaller and slimer. It had been passed almost a thousand years, and the time of heroes was over. The warrior glanced amid the rubble that once used to be his village, a mountain spring and wanted to refresh himself. He -forgetting Niam's warming- dismounted.  No sooner his foot touched the mortal earth, than the hundreds of years that had been elusive in the fairy kingdom destroyed his body and Oisín died.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rayong Oil spill (July, 27th) -Thailand

On July 27th about 50,000 litres of crude oil that spilled into the sea off the eastern province of Rayong.  Fortunately, according to the Thai authorities the cleaning process has been already done successfully.  This island was the most affected area.  _DSC0457.jpg
Ao Phrao bay on Koh Samet in Rayong province was hit by a oil slick when crude oil leaked into the sea from an offshore pipeline at a refinery operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) in Map Ta Phut industrial estate on July 27.  
Boats cleaning the affected area.  Workers also used oil skimmers to remove the oil and put it in containers on board the ship.  Four ships were deployed to spray about 35,000 litres of oil-spill dispersants to clean up the slick on the sea surface, the company said._DSC0455.jpg
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Rayong Resort  located in front of Khao Laem Ya National Park._DSC0470.jpg

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beginning of Vassa 2013

The beginning of Vassa started this year on July 22.  This day marks the beginning of the Buddhist ‘lent’ period. Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to intensive meditation and study. That is a time when monks and nuns are supposed to retreat to their temples while new life springs forth
During Vassa monks and nuns remain in their temples and intensify their meditation practice.  It is also a time when monks refrain from eating meat and smoking. This is why Vassa is often called the “Buddhist Lent.” 
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Laypeople participate by bringing food, candles and other necessities to monks.  But also this day laypople offer food to the people.  So, everyone can have different kind of food made of pork, noodles and rice.  The temple also provides soft drinks, ice cream, some kinds of dessert... all of them free of charge.  

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two movies, worthwhile to watch them!


Some weeks ago I watched a couple of interesting movies which deal with the condition of human bonds: Before Sunset and Before Sunrise.  The dynamic of the conversation, the subtle exploration of individuals' feelings, the presentation of the vulnerability as a constituent of any person, the mystery of everyday contact with new people make these two movies worthwhile to watch them. Along this two movies, the viewer not only can clearly perceive the connection and magic that exists in any personal interaction, but feel the stress people experience when taking decisions that inevitably affect their lives as well.  The viewer can also advert the role of fortune plays on our daily life.  In my opinion these are two of the most memorable movies owing to its clarity and simplicity with which addresses issues related to ordinary life and personal ties. Both movies are connected by the plot and actors - in fact, they are part of the same dramatic story.  The simple way of presenting the process of falling in love, the maturation of the life, experiences of frustration and excitement exert a powerful draw on me.  I dare say they are a very human film.  

Before Sunrise (1995) tells the story of Jesse, an American college student traveling through Europe after braking off the relationship with his girlfriend.  It seems that the goal of his trip is to keep away any memory of her. On his way from Budapest to Vienna meets Celine, a beautiful French girl who travels to Paris after visiting her grandmother to whom she felt deeply bond.  After a long conversation in the train and a large interchange of mutual flirtatious smile, Jesse convinces the girl to stay with him in Vienna walking and exploring the city. Both spend exciting hours talking about religion, politics, the meaning of life and death, fate. The Intellectual curiosity and empathy are common topics among them that keep the couple together, and make them communicate with great emotional intensity.   During their time together, the magnificent Viennese scenarios play a singular and romantic role as well. They fall in love each other, but they know it will end at dawn, when everyone must leave for their own destination.  Without asking each other for personal information such as address or phone calls they bid farewell each other …. However, they promise each other get together in six months later in the same train station.

Before Sunset (2004) begins nine years after the events narrated above. Jesse has become a writer, and wrote a book about Celine, about that day, and about his feelings for her. It seems it was a way he chose to deal with the absence of the girl, and to face up uncertainty, knowing nothing about her during this nine years.  That book is born of nostalgia and sense of loss:  an feeling that you and me have experienced to some extent, in some way this reminds me Nietzsche's Star frienship (click here). While he is presenting his book in a bookstore in Paris, he again meets Celine. They decide to walk together and talk, to know what happened to each other after so long. It is at this point that the viewer learns that Celine did not attend the meeting in Vienna; Jesse awaited for her in vain that day.   She said that she had lost her grandmother and there was no way to communicate this to him.   The time has passed for both of them, they have reached a certain maturity. Both have consolidated their personal projects, she as an ecologist, and he has deployed his literary vocation and got married. Once again, Jesse invite Celine to spend some hours together as he has to come back America at 5:00 PM. They again talk about their lives. What's interesting about this second film is that the dialogue takes place in real time, you even can feel the tension between them. Later, he persuades her to be on her flat, once there, he sat on the sofa and she starts singing and playing her guitar... then she starts shyly and sensually dancing... However, the time is awfully running  faster than ever, but it seems he has forgotten his flight...    The end is open, as in the original film.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Monet Technique

As beginners in photography the most common and frequent assumptios is: the more still the object to be photographied is, the better the photo. However, this is not always true. "Keep quiet, don't even dare to blink, please" I used to utter frequently.  However, there is a photography technique that allows you to do what the first assumption ban it. That is the Monet Technique.  It is named after Claude Monet and is used for making a blurring effect with the image by putting the camera on a low shutter speed and taking a picture while you move the camera. This results in a blurred, but intricate photograph. Some people find this trick effective when taking pictures of flowers, it works best of course when there's a variety of vibrant colours. 
So to take pictures using the Monet technique I used: 
1. a simple panoramic view of a small part of Bangkok city 
2. a Nikon Camera set the aperture to either f/16 or f/13, and
3. a 50mm Nikon lens
In front of this nice view, the first idea that came to my mind was to take a nice panoramic view!!!   However, it was around 6.00PM,  in some way was a bit dark to make a sharp panoramic view.  Anyway, hand-holding my camera I shot, and as you can see the photo is not sharp!!  
Shutter priority
Exposure 1/125 sec
ISO: 800
It was in that moment while looking the photo on the camera I decided to take photos using the Monet technique : )  Bellow see the results!
Shutter priority 
f/8 Exposure 0/4 sec 
ISO: 200
short up and down movement  _DSC9338.jpg
Shutter priority
f/16 Exposure 1.6 sec
ISO: 200
Drawing an slow and upward spiral
Same settings as the above one, but moving the camera faster than the previous one while shooting.
Shutter priority 
f/16 Exposure 1.6 sec 
ISO: 200
Drawing my signature :)
_DSC9333.jpg Shutter priority f/16 
Exposure 1 sec 
ISO: 200 slow-vertical movements.

Shutter priority
f/16 Exposure 2 sec 
ISO: 200  
Although I am drawing an spiral movement with the camera, it can be seen the red roof of the  temple in the lower side of the photo.
Shutter priority 
Exposure 1 sec 
ISO: 200 
Drawing a "V". The roof of the temple can be spotted clearly.  _DSC9340.jpg
Shutter priority 
f/16 Exposure 0.6 sec 
ISO: 800 
Drawing a "C" _DSC9341.jpg _DSC9342.jpg
Shutter priority 
Exposure 5.0 sec 
ISO: 100 
Shaking and drawing an "O" with the camera while shooting!