Saturday 31 January 2009


Have you WORDLED yet?

Yes, it's another diversion and digression from getting on with the boring daily round of chores and I was introduced to it by my good friend, Polkadotsoph who has - so far - afforded me several hours of enjoyably entertainment and cost me the equivalent in never to be recovered life!!

WORDLE, for those as yet unaware, is a computer tool -- actually, to be fair, they call it a toy and that's about the truth of it! -- that allows you to create "word clouds" from text which you select and are able to imaginatively arrange in a variety of fonts, styles and colours...

Here are a few of my early efforts...

Firstly, an arrangement of words associated with Venice...

Click on images to enlarge

Then a randomised selection of words pulled by Wordle from recent postings on my blog...

And lastly, on the day on which I'm in Oxford attending a dinner at Lewis Carroll's academic home, Christ Church, here's my Wordle-generated impression of his most famous book...

To start Wordling, click here.

Images created by Brian Sibley using >Wordle, 2009.

Friday 30 January 2009


A reminder that tomorrow is the closing date for entries to our latest Caption Competion!

Don't miss out on your chance to join the immortal SBCCs - Sibley-Blogger-Caption-Champs!

Just tell me what you think these men saying either to one another or to the prehistoric creature in their care? Or indeed what's going on in the mind of that ichthyosaur...

Wednesday 28 January 2009


Sorting through my photographs of New York, I find that I took a great many more snow pictures than I'd realised! Well, as you may know, I have a childlike passion for snow -- nowadays combined, I admit, with a geriatric fear of falling over and being, turtle-like, unable to get up again!

Anyway, here are some snowy photos of trees, bridges, lamp-posts, statues, saxophonists, tobogganing children, basking sealions and polar bears in genuine polar surroundings...

Click on images to enlarge

And you'll find a some new New York windows on my sister blog, Window Gazing.

Images: Brian Sibley, © 2009

Monday 26 January 2009


Happy Chinese New Year!

You are now entering my year which is

The Year of the Ox

In case you wondered here's what the Chinese believe (courtesy of Wikipedia) about Ox People...

The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest.

Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.
Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise.

An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families.

Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who don't take kindly to being told what to do.
The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought. These people enjoy helping others.

Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self-sacrificing exterior lies an active mind.
The Ox is not extravagant, and the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

Ox people are truthful and sincere, and the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world is distasteful to them. They are rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain.

These people are always welcome because of their honesty and patience. They are reputed to be the most beautiful of face in the zodiac. They have many friends, who appreciate the fact that the Ox people are wary of new trends, although every now and then they can be encouraged to try something new.

People born in the year of the Ox make wonderful parents and teachers of children.
It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.

It's not for me to say how accurate a description that is of my character -- and I'm not fishing for either compliments or insults! -- but I'll confess that it's already too late to heed the bit about not living off credit cards (which necessarily negates the bit about "prosperity") and the comment that Oxen are noted for "enduring any amount of hardship without complaint" is, in my case (as David will all too readily testify), absolute tosh!

Similarly, I think anyone who knows me will dispute the statement that Oxen "speak little"! I can hear the chorus all too clearly: "We wish!"

Of course, for those who - not unreasonably - don't believe in non-Chinese Astrology on the basis that it's impossible to believe that everyone born in one-twelfth of the year is, more or less, like everyone else born at that time, the Chinese Zodiac requires an even greater stretch of credulity to accept that everyone born in a span of 365 days will have common characteristics. 

Anyway, shelving the doubts for a moment (in the interests of blogging!) I'm pleased to note that share my Chinese Zodiacal sign with Walt Disney (appropriately) and Barack Obama (topically), but while those two Oxen were born in years that have the elemental supplement that makes them a Metal Ox, I was born in the year of the Earth Ox...

There are, it transpires, five elements to each of the Chinese signs of the zodiac: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. So, here's a more detailed analysis of my earthy personality...

Earth is a balance of both yin and yang, the feminine and masculine together. Its motion is inward and centering, and its energy is stabilising and conserving. It is associated with the color yellow and the planet Saturn, and it lies at the center of the compass in the Chinese cosmos. It is associated with the turn of each of the four seasons and with damp.

It is believed to govern the spleen, stomach, mouth and muscles. Its negative emotion is anxiety and its positive emotion is empathy. Its Primal Spirit is represented by the Yellow Dragon.

In Chinese thought Earth is associated with the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness, practicality, hard work and stability.

The earth element is also nurturing and seeks to draw all things together with itself, in order to bring harmony, rootedness and stability.

Other attributes of the earth element include ambition, stubbornness, responsibility and long-term planning. In pathology, the earth can represent selfishness and self-centeredness.

So, a few pluses and minuses there - especially for those who who have to deal with this stubborn, selfish, self-centred old Ox.

What was a big revelation, for me, was to discover that I am somehow associated with damp!


Must be why I love Venice so much...

Anyway, damp or dry, here's to the new year!

Click to enlarge and find your Chinese Zodiac sign.

You can read more about Chinese Astrology and the sign you were born under, here.

Images: Top Ox by H. H. Wong 黃可鏗; Middle Ox by Space Gallery.


I guess it's must be a reward for having written so much of late about the Walt Disney Studio that I've been accorded this very special and highly prestigious honour...

Thanks Mickey & Co. I am, quite simply, overwhelmed! And, of course, I'm eagerly awaiting my air tickets to the opening!!

I guess my only reservation is about Brian's Special Holiday Turkey Legs... But, hey!

Saturday 24 January 2009


One of my favourite Christmas Presents was a copy of Time Out's London through a lens, a unique take on the British capital from the viewpoint of photographers across 150 years.

Selected from the Getty Images Archive, this is hidden, lost and forgotten London: whippet racing and jellied eels, fairs and funerals, Rolls Royces and skateboards, Teddy Boys and Bunny Girls, debutantes and dancing bears...

Plus the Beatles, the Krays, Michael Caine, Barbara Cartland and Barbara Hepwoth, Jack the Ripper's first victim and Alfred Hitchcock floating in the Thames.

Though clearly an unrelated incident, there are also people diving into the Thames in 1934 (cover image, above) and a crocodile of London tykes (below) following a Covent Garden busker in 1952...

A wonderful cache of memorable images, often stunningly juxtaposed: an East End family in 1912, cheek by jowl with Caribbean immigrants in 1956; a parade of swim-suited bathers at the Serpentine Lido in 1937 walking away from the Rolling Stones as they stroll through Hyde Park in 1967.

Constantly diverting, historically important, visually stunning: this London is truly unmissable. And it has provided me with a photo 2009's first


Snapped in 1930, these two phlegmatic British workers are cleaning up one of the ichthyosaurs in the Crystal Palace's dinosaur park - about which I wrote a few months back.

So, what do you think they are saying to one or another - or, of course, to the creature in the care...?

As ever, all (and multiple) submissions welcome. Closing date: 31 January.

Friday 23 January 2009


As I mentioned (in complaining about my bathroom basin), I'm staying in the historic Essex House which has the singular distinction of overlooking the entire 843 acres of Central Park...

This means that every room has a stunningly breathtaking view of what has been called New York's "backyard". Well, kind of...

While, in reality, my view is this...

Never mind, it's the thought that counts!

A couple of New York windows have been added to my sister blog, Window Gazing.

Images: © Brian Sibley, 2009

Thursday 22 January 2009


Filmed my interview for the Blu-ray DVD of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs today: two solid hours of question-answering, till my voice was as hoarse and raspy as that of the old hag peddling poisoned apples...

Click on images to enlarge

For the benefit of Alex (and anyone else who liked the vintage SW&7D poster I blogged the other day) the picture above is another piece of conceptual art created for Disney's movie by the extraordinary Swedish artist and illustrator, Gustav Tenggren.

And thinking and talking so much about Snow White in her various incarnations has, inevitably, put me in mind of Miss Mae West's famous confession...

I used to be SNOW WHITE...

...but I DRIFTED!

Image of Mae West by Al Hirschfeld

Wednesday 21 January 2009


I'm staying at Essex House on the edge of Central Park - one of New York's great Art Deco hotels recently refurbished by the Jumeirah group at a cost of $90 million...

But, who, I'd like to know, was responsible for choosing the bathroom washbasins? So arranged that you can't easily reach the water for washing, shaving or tooth-cleaning because -- you're on the wrong side of the TAPS!!

Image: © Brian Sibley, 2009

Tuesday 20 January 2009


I drove into New York City listening to the inauguration of President Obama on the car radio.

I was very moved by the ceremony and by the fact that my driver was - like many Americans today - euphoric!

It's beautifully snowy in Central Park....

Click on images to enlarge

And the photographers are definitely OUT!

Images: © Brian Sibley, 2009

And here's buttons take on the snow.


My bags are packed and, in a couple of hours, I'll be off to the airport. It's certainly an historic day on which to be flying to America!

As everyone knows, today's the day that the 44th US President, Barack Obama, will be inaugurated and will take office with more hopes and expectations riding on his shoulders than is, I think, altogether reasonable.

In his Presidential acceptance speech - a tour de force of oratory that was all the more powerful for having followed the ineptitudes of the last incumbent of the White House - Obama said: "Tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this moment, change has come to America..."

It was, of course, what America - and the world - wanted to hear; and, inevitably, it will be tempting to remember that quote divorced from the caveat that immediately followed: "The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even in one term - but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

Wherever "there" is (if, indeed, it is anywhere), one cannot cavil with the sentiment - merely trust that it will be a good long time before disappointment and disillusionment set in; long enough, perhaps, for the beginnings of that promised change...

Meanwhile, as everyone will be focusing on Washington, I'll be in New York, filming an interview for the 'extras' on the forthcoming BluRay DVD of Walt Disney's first full length feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Released in 1937, it was a film that emerged from a depression era even more desperate and devastating than the one that now besets America and the world...

On the wall above my desk, as I write, is a Snow White clock, the face of which is inscribed by the late Adriana Caselotti who was the voice of Disney's heroine.

Miss Caselotti gave me this unique souvenir, twenty years ago, on one of several visits to her Hollywood home which, I am happy to inform you, had a wishing well in the front yard!

"I wish you," she wrote, "a continued beautiful and successful life."

Which seems like something we all ought to be wishing one another on this day of hopes and dreams...

Images: Caricature of Barack Obama by Bob Staake.

Sunday 18 January 2009


I'm founding a major new charity which will be known as Friends of the Phoneless or FOPS for short.

How often have you been sitting in a restaurant when the sound of a mobile phone has signalled what will be - for one of a pair of diners - the start of a lonely ten, twenty, thirty minutes while their dining companion takes a call whilst eating one-handed?

The communal pleasure of eating a meal with someone is instantly ruptured and for the phoneless party, there can be nothing more depressing than having to consume a meal in silence while listening to one side of a - usually vacuous - telephone call, at the same time being surrounded by a restaurant full of couples and groups most of whom (except for those with partners on the phone!) are engaged in conversation!

This is the moment when FOPS leap into action!

The FOP volunteer instantly rushes to the table of the abandoned diner and immediately begins engaging him or her in scintillating conversation until the thoughtless partner finally rings off. Then, a valuable job well done, the FOP can return to their own meal.

Why not volunteer, today, and begin your training as a FOP? Remember the phoneless need YOU!

Friday 16 January 2009


I said the same as these guys...

I said, "Twitter?!" --- after I said, "What's Twitter?" --- "It's not going to happen to me!"

But now, thanks to my friend Irascian, it HAS!

Apart from the aforementioned Irascian, are there any other twitterers among my blog readers?

Thursday 15 January 2009


Have you heard about One Minute Wonders yet?

Your answer to this will depend on whether you have any one in your household who is either young enough to be a CBBC (Children's BBC) fan or anyone who's old enough to be sadly geeky about kids TV involving animation.

Basically, OMW is a 13-part, 30-minute TV series delivering a succession of minute-long stories that are mostly about things that happen during exactly that time period: such as the fact that a New Zealand chocolate factory produces 700 chocy bars a minute, while the Royal Mint turns out 2,852 new coins, trees in the tropical rain forests lose up to 184 ml of water from their leaves and the Earth gains 168 tonnes in weight.

Essentially OMW offers a painless way to pick up fun facts in a energetic format that is likely tocatch the imagination of youngsters for whom the web, YouTube and multi-faceted TV screens are part of daily life.

The TV screen becomes a tech-lab/theatre space overseen by Blink, the all-seeing eye of the narrator (a multi-voiced voice-over performance by actor David Schneider) and his robotic companion Missit. While the 60-second mini-features are showing on an insert screen combining archive live action footage and animation all kinds of other surprising (often downright crazy) things - such as alien spaceships beaming up cows - are going on in and around the margins. Every minute a new story unfolds and .

The series animation is the work of Karrot Entertainment, a new studio set up by talented animator, Jamie Badminton, who's collaborated with a group of artists dedicated to create lively, engaging animation in a wide diversity of styles that compliments the live action 'Wonders' and challenges the current preconceptions of TV animation.

Jamie Badminton has been quoted as saying, “I’m thrilled that we were able to fill the show with individual artistic voices and provide One Minute Wonders with an atmosphere that instantly makes learning more effective through laughter and surprises.”

To be honest, I don't know whether "kids today" (that's Old Fart's talk for Yoof) give a damn about Finding Thing Out as they did in the Look-and-Learn/Children's Encyclopedia/I-Spy Books culture of my tender years, but what I enjoyed - and what I hope some young viewers will enjoy (even if they don't identify it as such) is the disparate nature of the topics, the liveliness of the presentation and quirky unexpectedness of the animation.

If it didn't make me sound quite so old and geeky, I'd say it reminded of the kind thing, when I was young, I used to like about shows like How and Vision On...

Anyway, it's clearly a series worth keeping an eye on...

But Blink and you'll Missit...

See the most recent epsiode on the BBC iPlayer and for more about One Minute Wonders, visit OMW website.

Wednesday 14 January 2009


Now that the kids have finally worn out the Disney DVDs they got for Christmas, here is an intriguing insight into the private lives of some of Uncle Walt's favorite characters...

Click image to enlarge

Cartoon by Mike Peters.

Sunday 11 January 2009


Shopping these days is such a worry: so many options, so much choice...

For example, here I am in my local supermarket yesterday, attempting to follow the store's credo...

...and pondering that routine January shopping dilemma whether to try early Hot Cross Buns or late Christmas Cake...

Saturday 10 January 2009


As the saying goes East is East and West is West and so on and so forth...

If you've missed the following images which have been circulating in various e-mails, you're in for a diverting, thought-provoking, few minutes.

These pictograms are the creation of Yang Liu a Chinese designer educated, as I understand it, in Germany.

Yang Liu's images depict/define the contrasting attitudes of West and East towards aspects of daily life.

The perceptions of the West/Europe/Germany are coloured BLUE

Those of Asian/Chinese attitudes are in RED


Way of Life






Sundays on the Road


In the Restaurant



Definition of Beauty

Handling Problems

Three Meals a Day


The Elderly in Daily Life

Shower Time

Moods and Weather

The Boss


The Child