Right Reading

concept to publication

Author: xensen (Page 2 of 45)

rose

Left: Vatican City, 3 Oct. 2009. Right: Antigua, Guatemala, 4 Jan., 2002.

Left: Vatican City, 3 Oct. 2009. Right: Antigua, Guatemala, 4 Jan., 2002.

Living Wall with Calder, SFMOMA

Living wall at SFMOMA, with detail of <em>Maquette for Trois disques</em>, 1967, by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976), metal and paint, The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Living wall at SFMOMA, with detail of Maquette for Trois disques, 1967, by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976), metal and paint, The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Penobscot stones

detail of Venice scene

Scena di Venezia

Venice scene

Another image using the photo-to-line art technique I described in a previous post.

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the New Millennium

Cover of SF Chronicle Boos Review

A friend and I were talking.

One of my favorites is Italo Calvino, she said.
Oh, yes!… I used to review some of his books for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Which ones?
My favorite was Six Memos for the New Millennium.
I love that one! Can you send it to me?… The review, I mean.
Maybe? That must have been around thirty years ago. But I think I do still have some old reviews in a box. I’ll see if I can dig it out for you.

And I did. And here it is.


Writing as a Perfect Crystal

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1985–1986
By Italo Calvino; translated by Patrick Creagh
Harvard University Press; 136 pages; $12.95

In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino, master of startling literary transformations in such works as Invisible Cities, Cosmicomics, and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, shares his personal alchemical formula for literary Gold.

These lectures, intended for presentation at Harvard University in 1985, are precisely worded, carefully crafted, beautifully illustrated examples of the literary essay and inspiring demonstrations of Calvino’s argument that writing should have the definition, luminescence, and perfection of structure of a crystal. (The book is marred only by the failure of Harvard University Press to credit Patrick Creagh’s excellent translation.)

Calvino’s formula is idiomatic and personal. It will be difficult for literary critics to apply it as a test of value or for aspiring writers to use it as a recipe for their own magical creations. But it provides a brilliant, original approach to literature, a key to Calvino’s own work, and a thoroughly delightful and illuminating commentary on some of the world’s greatest writing.

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La persistencia de la memoria, 1931, by Salvador Dali. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, NY, given anonymously, 162.1934.

La persistencia de la memoria, 1931, by Salvador Dali. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, NY, given anonymously, 162.1934.

 

The predominant focus in the neurobiological study of memory has been on remembering (persistence). However, recent studies have considered the neurobiology of forgetting (transience). Here we draw parallels between neurobiological and computational mechanisms underlying transience. We propose that it is the interaction between persistence and transience that allows for intelligent decision-making in dynamic, noisy environments. Specifically, we argue that transience (1) enhances flexibility, by reducing the influence of outdated information on memory-guided decision-making, and (2) prevents overfitting to specific past events, thereby promoting generalization. According to this view, the goal of memory is not the transmission of information through time, per se. Rather, the goal of memory is to optimize decision-making. As such, transience is as important as persistence in mnemonic systems.

Neuron Magazine

This is a fancy way of saying, just think how hellish it would be if you were unable to forget any face you had ever seen on BART.

line art

Photo to Line Art Technique

Bucks Harbor, Maine. Artwork from photo.

Bucks Harbor, Maine. Artwork from photo.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a technique for converting photos to line art, which can then be colorized. (I don’t claim this technique is original to me, but I’ve been refining it for my own purposes.)

The essence of the technique is the conversion to lines, using the color dodge and multiply blend modes. In the artwork above, I started from this photo:

Original photo.

Original photo.

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Tom Christensen reading José Ángel Valente at the Library of Congress

Reading Valente at the Library of Congress

Just found out today (from someone who actually watched it) that this is online. I guess it’s been up for years.

Vitruvian Man (detail), by Leonardo da Vinci.

On Aspect Ratios

La condition humaine, 1933, by René Magritte. Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Collectors Committee1987.55.1.

La condition humaine, 1933, by René Magritte. Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Collectors Committee1987.55.1. The aspect ratio of the work on Magritte’s easel is about 1:1.2.

Most photographic and print publication work involves operating within rectangular frames. The relationship of width to height is the aspect ratio, expressed as, for example, 1:1 for a square, 1:1.5 for a 6 x 9 book, or 1:2  for a sheet that is twice as wide as it is tall. Conventionally, the width is stated first: that 6 x 9 book is in portrait format, whereas a 9 x 6 book would be landscape, bound on the short side, and most inconvenient to read.

A special case is the golden section or golden ratio, a rectangle with the proportion 1:1.618 (between 3/5ths and 5/8ths). In this rectangle the smaller dimension is to the larger as the larger is to the sum. In other words, 1 is to 1.618 as 1.618 is to 2.618. And as 2.618 is to 4.236, and so on. This relationship, which can be extended indefinitely, was known since classical times, and it underlies the Fibonacci Series and the modular architecture of Le Corbusier, among other expressions. Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German scientist, studied people’s responses to rectangular shapes in 1876 and concluded that the golden section is the most pleasing, though his methodology and results have been questioned. But other aspect ratios also have historic and aesthetic associations.

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Links for May 25

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

I haven’t done a links post in quite a while. Here are a few things I thought worth sharing.

By C. Walter Hodges - Folger Shakespeare Library http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/detail/FOLGERCM1~6~6~40370~102858:The-Globe-Playhouse,-1599-1613--A-c?sort=Call_Number%2CAuthor%2CCD_Title, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34711726

Shakespeare’s Globe

Democritus and Heraclitus, by Johannes Moreelse (Dutch, ca. 1603–October 1634). Oil on canvas. Democritus and Heraclitus, the laughing philosopher and the weeping philosopher, were a popular subject for early modern painters, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez, and many others. The philosophers are usually shown, as here, viewing a globe.

Democritus and Heraclitus, by Johannes Moreelse (Dutch, ca. 1603–October 1634). Oil on canvas. Democritus and Heraclitus, the laughing philosopher and the weeping philosopher, were a popular subject for early modern painters, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez, and many others. The philosophers are usually shown, as here, viewing a globe.

The aged are inclined to live in the past. In 1576, when Thomas Platter was seventy-seven, he published a charming autobiography. It would be admired centuries later by Goethe. Platter was the son of Swiss peasants. In Europe, the explosion of printing begun in the fifteenth century made advanced education available beyond the traditional literary elite, and Platter had learned seven languages and ended as a schoolteacher in Basel. As a legacy of his success, both of his sons, Felix and Thomas, became physicians. In 1599 the brothers were well enough off to partake of the new fad of international tourism, and they traveled to London. In his travel diary the younger brother, Thomas, describes attending a play “very pleasingly performed” on September 21. The drama was a tragedy concerning the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. Felix is sometimes remembered for being one of the first to articulate a theory of germs. Thomas is remembered for having attended a play.

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"Fritillaria" (detail), 1915, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

“Fritillaria,” 1915, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

"Fritillaria," 1915, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

“Fritillaria,” 1915, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Scottish, 1868-1928). Pencil and watercolour on paper, 25.3 x 20.2 cm. Hunterian Art Gallery Mackintosh collections, GLAHA 41015.

Art is the Flower. Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing,something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful — more lasting than life itself.
— Charles Rennie Mackintosh, from “Seemliness” (1902 lecture)

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El Supremo and Ivankita.

The New Peronistas

El Supremo and Ivankita.

El Supremo and Ivankita.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Countryside of Woods with Saint George Fighting the Dragon (detail), 1510.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Forest Scene with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510

Countryside of Woods with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510, by Albrecht Altdorfer (German, 1480-1538). Oil and parchment on linden wood, 8.9 × 11.1 in. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Forest Scene with Saint George Fighting the Dragon, 1510, by Albrecht Altdorfer (German, 1480–1538). Oil and parchment on linden wood, 8.9 × 11.1 in. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Albrecht Altdorfer, a contemporary of Copernicus who worked in Regensburg (today a German city of 138,0000 near the Austria and Czechia borders), was a leader of the Danube school of painting. These painters spearheaded a move toward landscape painting in its own right, as opposed to using landscape mainly as a background for setting classical and biblical scenes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in this small oil painting. St. George and the dragon are dwarfed by trees in a woodsy setting. In fact, some of the leaves appear nearly as big as the dragon, whose appearance is more that of a hapless toad of the traditional ferocious fire breather. Many critics, such as Linda Murray in The High Renaissance and Mannerism (London: Thames & Hudson, 1967), call Altdorfer the first modern landscape painter. A number of his painters contain no figures at all — Altdorfer also worked as an architect, and some depict lonely ruins at twilight.

Altdorfer cleverly uses lighting effects to bring out the figures from the background and give the scene a sense of mystery. The effect is a strange stillness that is at odds with the traditional dynamism and violence of depictions of this subject.

Crossword puzzle detail with answer "for heaven's sake."

The cruxiform crucible

completed crosswordThings I have learned from doing the NYT crossword:

  • The most famous of all musicians is Brian ENO.
  • Anything mixed up is an OLEO. Not to be confused with AIOLI, foremost among condiments, or OREO, the most popular snack ever.
  • All Asian holidays are TET.
  • Scandinavian queens like to name their sons OLAV.
  • A poem is probably an ODE.
  • If you’re on the water you must be ASEA, and very likely ALEE.
  • To get someone’s attention, say PSST.
  • Taps nearly always produce ALE. But MEAD is a more popular drink than anyone knew (other than crossword constructors). It is nearly always poured from a EWER.
  • History is the study of ERAS. Perhaps the most important is that of Pope LEOIV.
  • If you only know one muse, make her ERATO.
  • Native Americans are often ERIE, which is also by far the greatest of the Great Lakes.
  • The most significant architectural features are the APSE and the NAVE.
  • Of all of the stories in the bible, the most compelling are those of ENOS and ESAU.
  • Don’t forget your SSN.
  • When climbing, keep an eye out for ARETES.
  • Shakespeare never produced a greater line than “ET TU, Brute.”
  • Pinyin has still not been accepted for romanizing Chinese in Crosswordese. Never write Laozi, always Lao TSE.
  • A great jazz singer is ELLA. Hey, they got one right!

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charging bull - detail

Fearless against the blowback

From Greg Fallis's website.

From Greg Fallis’s website.

Greg Fallis, on the website gregfallis.com, does a service in reminding us of the history of the statues of the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl. I live on the West Coast, and the last time I saw the Bull in the Bowling Green of the Financial District in Manhattan, New York City, the Fearless Girl had not yet been installed.

But I cannot agree with the conclusion Fallis draws from that history. He reminds us that Arturo Di Modica, a Sicilian immigrant who produced the bull at his own expense, created it to represent “the strength and power of the American people.”

Charging Bull, 1989, by Arturo Di Modica. Bronze. Bowling Green, Manhattan. Photo from bryan…’s photostream.

The Girl, on the other hand, was commissioned by an investment fund called State Street Global Advisors, which has assets in excess of US$2.4 trillion. It was intended as corporate marketing. So that seems to be a mark against the Girl.

Additionally, Fallis notes that the Girl draws her strength from the Bull, so she in effect is parasitic on it. “A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art,” Fallis says, “to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art” (Di Modica installed the Bull without permission from the city).

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The Great Piece of Turf (detail), 1503, by Albrecht Dürer.Nuremberg, watercolor on paper. Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Albrecht Dürer, The Great Piece of Turf

The Great Piece of Turf, 1503, by Albrecht Dürer. Nuremberg. watercolor on paper. Albertina Museum, Vienna.

The Great Piece of Turf, 1503, by Albrecht Dürer. Nuremberg. watercolor and white gouache on paper. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

This small (15.75 x 12.25 in.) watercolor is called Das große Rasenstück in German, which is most often translated as The Great Piece of Turf. Some of its greatness lies in that fact that in one sense it is not great at all — it’s just a seemingly ordinary couple of square feet of weeds and grasses. According to Tom Lubbock in The Independent, the plants can be identified as “cock’s-foot, creeping bent, smooth meadow grass, daisy, dandelion, germander speedwell, greater plantain, hound’s-tongue and yarrow.” Not focal plants for most gardeners.

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Warwick downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island

Warwick downtown.

Warren downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island, is a town where the somewhat dumpy downtown seems frozen in the 1950s. In other words, my kind of place.

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Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

To The Lighthouse: Nubble Light House, Cape Neddick Light Station, York, Maine (and a few other lighthouses)

Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Recently I visited Sohier Park in Cape Neddick, York, Maine (near Ogunquit). About 100 yards offshore on a small rocky island perches one of the prettiest lighthouses I have seen, called Nubble Light House. The lighthouse was built in 1879, and the original lighthouse and perhaps outbuildings are still standing (though no doubt much repaired and updated). The 41-foot-high lighthouse — built of cast iron lined with brick and equipped with a Fresnel lens — remains in use today.

No. 85000844 on the National Register of Historic Places, the lighthouse is a New England icon: its image was included among the Voyager spacecraft materials so that any extraterrestials the ship encounters can gape at it, just as we do. The day before we visited we were hit by an April Fool’s Day storm that dumped ten inches of snow on us. But when we got to the lighthouse the sky was clear and blue.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

The visit to Nubble made me recall a few other lighthouses I’ve visited, some of which I was able to dig up from my photo files. My favorites are two Northern California lighthouses, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse near Pescadero (the tallest on the U.S. Pacific coast), and the Point Cabrillo Light Station near Mendocino.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse near Mendocino (and the small community of Caspar) is one of the most complete remaining lighthouse complexes.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

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