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31/12/2009

100$ Note Will Be Back & Times Square Ball, New York


This photo was taken in Times Square, in New York.
Times Square is the site of the annual New Year's Eve ball drop, where a time ball made of crystal and electric lights is raised to the top of a pole on the One Times Square building and then lowered to mark the coming of the New Year. The Times Square Ball descends 23 m over the course of a minute, coming to rest at the bottom of its pole at 12:00 am. Toshiba's Times Square billboard directly below the Ball counts down to midnight as well.
Every year up to one million people gather in Times Square to watch the Ball drop, and an estimated 1 billion watch video of the event, 100 million of them in the United States.
The flag pole on the top of One Times Square that the ball is hoisted atop was rebuilt and enlarged to accommodate the ball. When raised it is now placed 145 m above Times Square. As of January 6, 2009, the ball also now remains mid-way atop the pole in Times Square as a permanent fixture.

For the ones of you wondering what the "I'll be back" means, I guess this is linked to a redesigned $100 bill which is in the works, receiving design changes analogous to the current $20 bill, $50 bill, $10 bill and $5 bill. The new $100 bills had been expected to be released in late 2008, but as December 2009, no new designs have been announced. New design $100 bill is on printing production process since 2008/2009 fiscal year. To fulfill huge demand for this note and redistribution process and huge costs to banks in each state, time of official presentation is end of 2009 or first quarter of 2010. Although the redesign has been publicized as routine, North Korean counterfeiting operations are a major concern. The new bills will most likely contain a Crane & Co. security feature called Motion, containing up to 650,000 microlenses embedded in the printing which will allow for the image to shift when the bill is moved. This was used for the first time ever on the Swedish 1,000-kronor note issued on March 15, 2006.

30/12/2009

Akha (Lao Sung) Hill Tribe Boy, Laos


This photo was taken in the north of Laos , in a small Akha village.
The Akha are hill tribe of subsistence farmers known for their artistry. The ethnic group may have originated in Mongolia around 1500 years ago. Most of the remaining Akha people are now distributed in small villages among the mountains of China, Laos (where they are considered Lao Sung), Myanmar (Burma), and northern Thailand.
Lao Sung (or more commonly Lao Soung) is an official Laos PDR designation for highland dwelling peoples in Laos (the others being the Lao Loum and the Lao Theung). The ones in Laos, the actual Lao Soung, make up 9% of the Laotian population. The Lao Soung aren't actually one single ethnic group but are made up of (H)Mong (the main group), Yao, Akha, Phu Noi and other people who live in the Laotian mountaintops. All these groups are related. Their main religions are animism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religions.

27/12/2009

Alfabia House, Majorca, Spain


This photo was taken in Alfabia gardens, located in the Tramuntana mountain range (on Majorca island), a geographical enclave which was wisely chosen by the Arabs who were well aware of its marvellous micro-climate providing water all year-round to the surrounding farm lands. The history of the Alfabia house and its gardens dates back to Arab rule between the 14th and 15th centuries.

26/12/2009

Street Portrait, Laos


This photo was taken in Laos, in a small village on the bank of the Mekong river, between Huay Xai (Thai-Lao border) and Pak Beng.

25/12/2009

Banksy


This is a photo of one of Banksy's many stencils.
Banksy is a quasi-anonymous British graffiti artist. He is believed to be a native of Yate, South Gloucestershire, near Bristol and to have been born in 1974, but there is substantial public uncertainty about his identity and personal and biographical details. According to Tristan Manco, Banksy "was born in 1974 and raised in Bristol, England. The son of a photocopier technician, he trained as a butcher but became involved in graffiti during the great Bristol aerosol boom of the late 1980s." His artworks are often satirical pieces of art on topics such as politics, culture, and ethics. His street art, which combines graffiti writing with a distinctive stencilling technique, is similar to Blek le Rat, who began to work with stencils in 1981 in Paris and members of the anarcho-punk band Crass who maintained a graffiti stencil campaign on the London Tube System in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His art has appeared in cities around the world. Banksy's work was born out of the Bristol underground scene which involved collaborations between artists and musicians.
Banksy does not sell photos of street graffiti. Art auctioneers have been known to attempt to sell his street art on location and leave the problem of its removal in the hands of the winning bidder.
See also Banksy's website and especially Banksy's Flickr pool.

24/12/2009

Colors, Night Market, Luang Prabang, Laos


This photo was taken during the daily night market of Luang Prabang in Laos, which features vendors selling all the typical Lao arts and crafts, some more touristy than others.

23/12/2009

Reclining Buddha, Wat Tham Phu Si temple, Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos


This is a photo of the Reclining Buddha, taken at Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple, located on the Mount Phou Si, in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Mount Phou Si (also written Mount Phu Si), is a 100m high hill in the center of the old town of Luang Prabang. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. The hill is a local religious site, and houses several Buddhist shrines.
Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, overlooking the town and surrounding countryside, is Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and is a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang.

22/12/2009

La Boule New Yorkaise, Pétanque, New York


This photo was taken in Bryant Park, Manhattan, New York, and is showing people playing Pétanque, a form of boules where the goal is, while standing with the feet together in a small circle, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (jack). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel.
The current form of the game originated in 1907 in La Ciotat, in Provence, in southern France. The English and French name pétanque comes from la petanca in the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats, meaning "feet together" or more exactly "feet anchored".
The casual form of the game of Pétanque is played by about 17 million people in France, mostly during their summer vacations.
Throughout the world, there are many outdoor games that have as their central activity the competitive pitching of a heavy ball along the ground so as to arrive closer to a target than one's opponent. The English have their lawn bowling, which is played on a manicured lawn and has several sub-types. The Italians have their Bocce; the South Slavs their Balinaje, etc...
The French game pétanque is among the more aggressive versions and is played by more people all over the world than any other.
The USA is one of the 30 or so countries where pétanque is played enthusiastically -- introduced into many regions, obviously, by French expatriates but taken up by people of very diverse origins.
See La Boule New Yorkaise official website.

21/12/2009

Battersea Power Station, London


This is a photo of Battersea Power Station, an iconic landmark of London, the first in a series of large coal-fired electrical generating facilities set up in England. The first part of the structure was built in 1939, and the station ceased electricity-generation in 1983. Since then the site has remained largely unused, with numerous failed redevelopment plans from successive site owners. The building is the largest brick-built structure in Europe and is notable for its original and lavish Art Deco fittings and decor. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, a noted architect and industrial designer (also famous for the design of the red telephone box, of Liverpool Cathedral, and also another London power station, Bankside, which now houses the Tate Modern art gallery). See also www.batterseapowerstation.org.uk to know more.

20/12/2009

Plumeria Rubra, Red Frangipani (Champa), Laos


This is a photo of a Plumeria Rubra (Red Frangipani) flower taken in Laos.
Plumeria rubra is a deciduous plant belonging to the genus Plumeria. Its common names are Red Frangipani, Common Frangipani or Temple Tree.
Plumeria rubra can grow to a height of 8 metres. It has usually pink flowers, and also has varieties with white or yellow shades .
These are now common naturalised plants in southern and southeastern Asia. In local folk beliefs they provide shelter to ghosts and demons. The scent of the Plumeria has been associated with a vampire in Malay folklore, the pontianak. They are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures, though Hindus (except on Bali) do not use the flowers in their temple offerings.
P. alba is the national flower of Nicaragua and Laos, where it is known under the local name "Sacuanjoche" (Nicaragua) and "Champa" (Laos).

19/12/2009

Lum Vong, Traditional Lao Dancer, Laos


This photo was taken in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.
The traditional Lao dance is called the lum vong. All the dancers form a circle. The size of the circle depends on the song being played, the lam or morlam. All the dancers will "fohn" in a circular way repeating the circle until the song stops. The circle and the dance are very coordinated and oriented. If the style and the beat of the song is slow, the dancers will go slowly. Conversely, the circle will rotate faster to a faster song.
During Lao New Year and some other festivals, there will be professional Lao dancers of different ages and styles. Some of the dancers are teenagers or children performing ancient dances that has been passing down from generation to generation. Different cultures of Laos will also perform to express their cultures like the Hmong, Tai Dum and others. Usually, the dance will appear before the whole event takes place as an opening act to represent the New Year.

18/12/2009

Fishing on the Mekong River, Laos


This photo was taken from the bank of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos.
The Mekong River is one of the world’s major rivers. It is the world's 12th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia (discharging 475 km3/114 cu mi of water annually). Its estimated length is 4,350 km, and it drains an area of 795,000 km2.
From the Tibetan Plateau this river runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Mekong basin is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. Only the Amazon boasts a higher level of biodiversity. Although the Amazon has higher biodiversity, the Mekong river has more biodiversity per unit area. More than 1200 species of fish have been identified and there could be possibly as many as 1700. Fishing is a very important part of the economic activities in the area and a vital source of protein in the local diet. Estimates indicate that some 120 fish species are commercially traded but most of the fishery is based on 10–20 species.

17/12/2009

Hector Guimard's Art Nouveau, Métropolitain (Métro), Paris, France


The Métro's original French Art Nouveau entrances are iconic symbols of Paris, and 83 survive. Designed by Hector Guimard in a style that caused some surprise and controversy in 1900, there are two main variants:
The most elaborate feature glass canopies (3 still exist).
The rest have a cast-iron balustrade decorated in plant-like motifs, accompanied by a "Métropolitain" sign supported by two orange globes atop ornate cast-iron supports in the form of plant stems (as per photo in this post).

16/12/2009

"Non-Violence" ("The Knotted Gun"), by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, United Nations Headquarter, New York


This photo was taken at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The complex is also notable for its gardens and outdoor sculptures, of which iconic "Non-Violence" ("The Knotted Gun"), by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, a gift from the Government of Luxembourg to the United Nations.

15/12/2009

John Jovino Gun Shop, New York


John Jovino Gun Shop or the John Jovino Company is a firearms dealer and factory located at 183 Grand Street, in Little Italy in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is the oldest gun retailer in New York City and claims to be the oldest gun shop in the United States.
The store, which is known for its sign depicting a revolver, was founded in 1911 by John Jovino who sold it to the Imperato family in the 1920s. It remains in the family. The store was once located at 5 Centre Market Place, part of a gun district behind the former police headquarters on Centre Street, but later moved to its present location.
The store "does about $1 million worth of business annually", a figure which used to be higher before the New York Police Department opened an internal firearms bureau. The company also owns a gun factory in Brooklyn, the only one in the city, which makes Colt M1911 pistols and reproductions of American Civil War-era Henry rifles.
Although many of its customers are in law enforcement, the company was near the top of a list of sellers whose guns were linked to New York City crimes in a 2003 report by a Columbia University researcher using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Some 102 guns of 11,700 used in crimes and later identified came from the Jovino shop. According to current owners, until the 1980s the Jovino Company was "one of the biggest dealers in the country" and sold guns to many police departments. The study did not suggest any wrong doing by the dealers listed (the store is not responsible for how people use the products they legally sell) and did not take into account that a store that has a higher volume of sales would most likely have a higher number of sales to people who later used the firearms in crimes, even if the store had a lower ratio of firearms used in crimes bought from the store per total sales than a store with a smaller volume of sales. A 2007 Village Voice article raised questions about the store's sales to United Nations diplomats from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The shop was seen in the film Serpico, in the thirteenth episode (Season One) of Law and Order (A Death in the Family) and very briefly in Mean Streets as well as The Brave One.

14/12/2009

Opera House, Sydney, Australia


This is a photo of the Sydney Opera House, New South Wales, Australia. Designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the project was built in three stages : 1959–1963 consisted of building the upper podium; 1963–1967 saw the construction of the outer shells; 1967-1973 consisted of the interior design and construction. It was formally opened in 1973 by Elisabeth II, and in 2007 was made a UNESCO World Heritage. To know more about it, please refer to following Wikipedia web page Sydney Opera House.
You can also refer to some previous post for similar photos.

11/12/2009

Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace), London


This is a photo of the Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace), the seat of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom - the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the heart of the London borough of the City of Westminster, close to the historic Westminster Abbey and the government buildings of Whitehall and Downing Street. The name may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a mediaeval building complex most of which was destroyed in 1834, and its replacement New Palace that stands today; it has retained the style and status of a royal residence, despite its actual use.
The first royal palace was built on the site in the eleventh century, and Westminster was the primary London residence of the Kings of England until a fire destroyed most of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of Parliament, which had been meeting there since the thirteenth century, and the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall. In 1834, an even greater fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament, and the only structures of significance to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft and the Jewel Tower. With the exception of the latter, architect Sir Charles Barry incorporated these into his design for the new Palace: a massive building in the Perpendicular Gothic style but with symmetrical proportions, 265.8 metres long and covering an area of 3.24 hectares, part of it reclaimed from the Thames. Barry was assisted by Augustus W. N. Pugin, a leading authority on Gothic architecture and style, who provided designs for the decoration and furnishings of the Palace. Construction started in 1840 and was completed thirty years later, much delayed and past the death of both leading architects, while works for the interior decoration continued intermittently well into the twentieth century. Major conservation work has been carried out since, due to the effects of London's pollution, and extensive repairs took place after the Second World War, including the reconstruction of the Commons Chamber following its bombing in 1941.
The Palace is one of the centres of political life in the United Kingdom; "Westminster" has become a metonym for the UK Parliament, and the Westminster system of government has taken its name after it. Its Clock Tower, in particular, which has become known as "Big Ben" after its main bell, is an iconic landmark of London and the United Kingdom in general, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of parliamentary democracy. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

04/12/2009

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos


This is a photo of Pha That Luang (Great Stupa in Lao), a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa on the eastern outskirts of Vientiane, Laos. Since its initial establishment suggested to be in the 3rd century, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions until the 1930s due to foreign invasions to the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.
Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as an Indic temple in the 3rd century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin.
In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered construction of Pha That Luang in 1566. It was rebuilt about 4 km from the centre of Vientiane at the end of That Luang Road and named Pha That Luang. The bases had a length of 69 meters each and was 45 meters high, and was surrounded by 30 small Stupas.
In 1641, a Dutch envoy of the Dutch East India Company, Gerrit van Wuysoff, visited Vientiane and was received by King Sourigna Vongsa at the temple, where he was, reportedly, received in a magnificent ceremony. He wrote that he was particularly impressed by the "enormous pyramid and the top was covered with gold leaf weighing about a thousand pounds". However, the stupa was repeatedly plundered by the Burmese, Siamese and Chinese.
Pha That Luang was destroyed by the Thai invasion in 1828, which left it heavily damaged and left abandoned. It was not until 1900, when the French restored to its original design based on the detailed drawings from 1867 by the French architect and explorer Louis Delaporte. However the first attempt to restore it was unsuccessful and it had to be resigned and then reconstructed in the 1930s.
The architecture of the building includes many references to Lao culture and identity, and so has become a symbol of Lao nationalism. The stupa today consists of three levels, each conveying a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine. The first level is 223 feet by 226 feet, the second is 157 feet along each side and the third level is 98 feet along each side. From ground to pinniacle, Pha That Luang is 147.6 feet high.
The area around Pha That Luang is now gated, to keep traffic out. Previously visitors could drive around the whole complex. The encircling walls are roughly 279 feet long on each side and contain a large number of Lao and Khmer sculptures including one of Jayavarman VII.