Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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Climbing

Climbing


Twice this week, I have been to Brooklyn Boulders to climb. So fun. My friends, Zach and Dave, have helped me with tips, spots and a dizzying array of climbing terminology, and I have managed to do a V0, a V1 and a V1+.


Bump. Smear. Flag.


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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

A film about the man who is regarded as the best sushi chef in the world.



“You have to fall in love with your work.”


“You must immerse yourself in your work.”


“The rest is how hard you work.”


“After about ten years, they let you cook the eggs. I had been practicing making the egg sushi for a long time. I thought I would be good at it. I kept messing up. I was making up to four a day. But they kept saying ‘No good, no good, no good.’ I felt like it was impossible to satisfy them. After three or four months, I had made over 200 that were all rejected. When I finally did make a good one, Jiro said, 'Now this is how it should be done.’ I was so happy I cried.”


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Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals at the Frick

Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals at the Frick

Last Sunday, I got up early and went to the Frick. I stood outside and, after a couple of hours’ queuing, I went in.


The Girl with the Pearl Earring only really made me feel one thing: fearful radiance.



I very much liked Hals’s portrait of Jacob Pietersz Olycan. The hand is incredible. And his arrogant, slightly weary expression.



I spent a long time looking at Rembrant’s Tronie of Man With Feathered Cap. I found it fascinating that, the more I stared at the area around the right eye, the side of the nose and the nostril, the more realistic it became. It just seemed to come more and more into focus.



But my favourite, by a long chalk, was Rembrandt’s Susana. He has done two paintings of the subject. In this one, the lustful Babylonian elders are not pictured, because, as Susana’s gaze makes clear, we are them.


Her eyes are horrified, which makes it all the more awful. The whole moment seems to be paused like a memory, everything stopped: her hand wringing out her hair, her jewellery glinting hyperreal, the half-contorted thumb of the hand that is moving to cover her body.



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The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Production Designer, Norman Reynolds: “I just wonder if it’s just a little bit convenient that everything happens in [the same town square].”


Steven Spielberg: “But you see, what it does is gives it a geography. And I think sometimes a geography makes an audience more secure with a story.”


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Steven Spielberg: “Every actor needs a different director for each moment. And I think I have to be a different director for each actor, moment to moment.”


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It was surprising to me how much Spielberg guided the actors. For example, he showed Karen Allen the exact facial expression he wanted for a scene.


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Spielberg storyboarded the entire film himself in advance.


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Why do some fields of enquiry - physics, maths - only advance, producing increasingly accurate views of the world, while others - politics, history - oscillate between being closer to and further from the truth?

Why do some fields of enquiry - physics, maths - only advance, producing increasingly accurate views of the world, while others - politics, history - oscillate between being closer to and further from the truth?

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Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

[But there are cases where] the conflict [between reality and our expectations] remains obstinately in place however much we ponder the problem. These are the cases where we are tempted to conclude that "intuition cannot be trusted”. In these situations we need to improve our intuition, to debug it, but the pressure on us is to to abandon intuition and rely on equations instead. Usually when a student in this plight goes to the physics teacher saying, “I think the gyroscope should fall instead of standing upright,” the teacher responds by writing an equation to prove that that the thing stands upright. But this is not what the student needed. He already knew that it would stay upright, and this knowledge hurt by conflicting with intuition. By proving that it will stand upright the teacher rubs salt in the wound but does nothing to heal it. What the student needs is something quite different: better understanding of himself, not of the gyroscope. He wants to know why his intuition gave him a wrong expectation. He needs to know how to work on his intuitions in order to change them.


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Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

Seymour Papert, Mindstorms

GAL’s idea [that looking at one two-pound object as made up of two one-pound objects, that a whole can be seen as additively made up of whatever parts we care to divide it up into] is powerful and is part of the intellectual toolkit of every modern mathematician, physicist or engineer. But one would not know this from looking at textbooks. GAL’s idea is not given a name, it is not attributed to a historical scientist, it is passed over in silence by teachers


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A game based on forced perspective

A game based on forced perspective

Tech Demo for Pillow Castle's First Person Puzzler - YouTube


I loved how much this demo made me laugh.


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Blindness: Ludum Dare 28 innovation winner

Blindness: Ludum Dare 28 innovation winner

http://shaunew.github.io/bl1nd-ld28/


I found this very tender. And I love the idea of only seeing having to infer the size and location of objects by changing your vantage point.


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Wynne Greenwood, image from Peas

Wynne Greenwood, image from Peas

Exhibition by Wynne Greenwood - Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects



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My niece likes to have many straws in her drink

My niece likes to have many straws in her drink


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At Berkeley

At Berkeley

A four hour documentary about UC Berkeley. It mostly covered administrative decision-making. The best parts, and the most convincing arguments for the film’s main thesis on the value of a public university, were the recordings of interesting lectures on science, history, psychology, English literature.


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Gone Home

Gone Home


Spoilers below.


Gone Home is a game well-suited to my tastes. It has characters steeped in riot-grrl culture. It features Heavens to Betsy, one of my all-time favourite bands. It has a coming-out story of the type I used to read in trashy and not so trashy novels when I was sixteen or seventeen.


But the game itself was disappointing.


The medium of expression - diary entries, notes, letters, answer-phone messages, lists - is a clever idea. Some fragments were relatively naturalistic. Others didn’t feel like they came from a whole. They were composed to be found. Further, the sum total of the items made the house feel like the scene of a frame-up. Most absurd was the protagonist’s diary that had in your hands from the beginning, from which entries were spooled out at important points in your exploration of the house.


Who is the player? Notionally, the big sister. But that makes no sense. You are equally in the dark about mundane information and family secrets. You read fragments pertaining to either with equal interest. This means you are really playing as you. My favourite moment was when I came across the note the little sister wrote about having sex with her girlfriend. “You” close it hurriedly, and say “Nope, not reading that.” For a moment, things felt credible: I had inhabited the mind and actions of a snooping big sister.


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A present for my nephew

A present for my nephew

Can you guess what it is?



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On the subway. Taken by Vera.

On the subway. Taken by Vera.


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Wynne Greenwood

Wynne Greenwood


Tracy + the Plastics are one of my all-time favourite bands.


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Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are truly appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing — atoms with curiosity — that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders.


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The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

I saw this with my friend, Dave, a couple of weeks ago. The thrust was that every film tries to push an ideology, usually implicitly and sometimes covertly. Most of the ideologies that Slavoj Žižek cites are ones of control and subjugation.


It was interesting to hear his thoughts on the imagery, metaphor, scripting and construction of great films. Which is to say, it was great to hear his thoughts on how interesting films achieve their effects. It made me want to see Jaws, Taxi Driver, If and The Sound of Music again. It made me want to see Brief Encounter, The Searchers, West Side Story, Zabriskie Point and The Last Temptation of Christ for the first time.


But his central thesis, that popular films are pushers of ideologies of control, was like all grand unified theses of popular culture: it has so much material to choose from, and that material is so subjective, it is possible to find evidence for any argument. One can often even see a way to take the same material and argue the precise opposite.


Even less rigorous, he cited The Last Temptation of Christ as the only film that escapes the ideology of control and evangelises for individual freedom. Which sounds suspiciously like another ideology.


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La Grande Bellezza

La Grande Bellezza

It’s fascinating to me when someone makes something that talks about something they find important, and I find it completely inconsequential.


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John Carmack talking about functional programming

John Carmack talking about functional programming

John Carmack's keynote at Quakecon 2013 part 4 - YouTube


I found this talk fascinating.


He talks about how to enforce purity. Only let game objects access the state of other objects by passing them a memory protected copy. That way, any attempts to cheat and mutate data are quashed.


He talks about changing state in a functionally pure environment. If one object wants to mutate another, it just passes it a message. It is up to the receiver to apply the message in the next tick.


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Antonioni

Antonioni

L'avventura



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Symmetrical. Kind of.

Symmetrical. Kind of.


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200 BC in The Met

200 BC in The Met


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Back to basics

Back to basics

Back to Basics – Joel on Software


Joel Spolsky: “Remember how strings work in C? They’re the key to your big, top-level decisions.”


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The Punk Singer

The Punk Singer

I saw this at DocNYC tonight. The first Julie Ruin record and Real Fiction by The Fakes  are two of my all time favourites, and I used to listen to a lot of riot-grrl. But the film, quite apart from being about someone I find interesting, was really good. The structure was sensibly organised around the bands Hanna was in. It put the music she made in an accurate, meaningful social context.


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Tommy Makem, The Butcher Boy

Tommy Makem, The Butcher Boy

The Butcher Boy - Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem - YouTube


I first heard this in No Direction Home, the Bob Dylan documentary. I find it very moving.


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Beyond the Hills

Beyond the Hills



Spoilers.


I saw this six months ago when it came out at the cinema. It is almost as spare as Cristian Mungiu’s first film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. But the film-making draws even less attention to itself. 4 Months… was sometimes so naturalistic that it was a little showy: the long supper scene with the static camera, the scene where the camera waits in the bathroom while each of the women go out to the bedroom to have sex with the man who performs the abortion.


Beyond the Hills is wonderful because the central relationship between the two women (second from left and on the right) is a complete mystery. What were they to each other before they were reunited at the convent? Why does the devout woman quietly and tenderly absorb the other’s affection and neither reject her nor let her in? Why does she finally decide to cast her lot in with her friend and leave the convent?


In the still above, the devout nun finally casts in her lot with her friend and her friend smiles and then dies. It makes me cry whenever I think about it.


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Colin Stetson, Among the Sef

Colin Stetson, Among the Sef

06%20among%20the%20sef.mp3


I love the way the sound of the saxophone dies away, just leaving the clacking of the keys. I love how the song feels both frenetic and mournful, like it’s a desperate attempt to save something that is slipping away.


This song reminds me of the summer just gone. Of floating around New York in the baking heat and going to the cinema three times in one weekend.


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Beach House, On the Sea

Beach House, On the Sea

09%20On%20the%20Sea.mp3


I adore the vibrato guitar. I adore the melody that falls, then steps up one tone, then falls again: “Whistle to a friend. Gentle till the end. Anyway in a name she takes shape just the same.” And I love love love the line: “Wouldn’t you like to know how far you’ve got left to go?”


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Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Colour


It’s really hard to choose any stills from this film. Most of them are either beautiful and, so, make the film seem trite, or mundane and, so, make the film seem empty. The one I wanted was of Adèle floating in the sea, finally able to get away from her own emotions and the tumult of circumstances that life has imposed on her. But the stills I could find of that look too sexualised and miss the point.


I chose the shot above. It’s at once down to earth and nicely composed.


It’s rare for a film to take you on a journey, where you think back to the start and can’t believe how much everyone has changed. Malcolm X did this. And Blue is the Warmest Colour does this.


The sex scenes, certainly in the way they have affected the film’s reception, are a distraction. It’s the emotional honesty of the film that is great. But, in the internal logic of the film, the sex scenes are appropriate. The director is trying to show emotions in raw form. The sex scenes are one of the expressions of that. They are, like the the snot that runs down Adèle’s lip when she cries, a way of saying: “If you want raw, I’ve got raw. You may think that two women having sex is sexy, but it is a mixture of crude and funny and sexy and beautiful. Like sex.”


My favourite line comes when the relationship is breaking down. Emma the painter says to Adèle the schoolteacher, of the woman Emma is flirting with at a party:


“She’s a painter, too.”


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The only bit I really liked from Masculin Feminin

The only bit I really liked from Masculin Feminin

Masculin Féminin (1966) - IMDb




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Heat

Heat

One of the things I like about Michael Mann is that I don’t understand a lot of his decisions. I don’t mean that I see his choice and its aim and that I disagree. I don’t mean I see his choice and think he has missed his aim. I mean I don’t see the choice he made. For example, I have no idea why the opening shot has a train in it, why there is smoke blowing across the screen, why it is night time, or why the camera is on the railway tracks.




There is something interesting about the way the man adjusts his glasses that feels so real, even though you are unnaturally close to his face.



Note in the background the portentous painting of the girl.



So much of Heat is shot panoramically. Even the little domestic scene where Hanna comes home late and hasn’t called and his wife has been waiting is shot in these great wide vistas. There are yards of space either side of him as he furtively looks up the stairs to see if it is safe to turn on the TV. These yards are used for informative things like the end of the dining table with candle and places for two, and also uninformative things like the great gap between Hanna and the TV and the part of a book shelf.



One could say this decision is about distancing the characters from each other, or showing a home that is mostly empty, or making the street environment spill into Hanna’s home life. Any which way, it makes the Hitchcockian front-on shots all the more arresting. It makes these moments almost the only times when two people actually focus on each other, rather than being drowned in the sea of space between them. Even if that focus or moment of interaction is between a man and the man he is about to kill.



Despite the fact that the men in this shot are moving about all over the place, they are laid out as well as a painting.



It would be trite to call Mann’s landscapes barren or desolate or real, though they are sometimes all these things. I think the overarching feeling is of existence. That there are places like these everywhere, and some of them are the stages for fantastical events like the ones depicted in the film you are watching. They are places where you are alone and, and though nothing is happening at this moment, attention is focused on you.



Mann is famous for shots like this:



The cold, blue light appears in Manhunter relatively frequently. But, in his other films, it’s quite rare. Since Collateral, it has almost completely disappeared, replaced by the sodium yellow of street lights that show up on his new, digital cameras. The yellow is far more interesting, because it is a colour we all inhabit. This realism is echoed in the new way he does the sound effects for guns. In Heat and earlier films, the guns made KABLAOWW type sounds that were designed to sound as powerful as possible. From Miami Vice on, the guns made that muffled, low-down-to-the-ground staccato you hear on news coverage of urban wars.


Mann sometimes brazenly disregards authenticity. In the scene at the end of The Last of the Mohicans, when the English girl throws herself off the cliff top after her dead beloved, the light upon the valley is completely different from the light on the characters’ faces when they are talking. In this scene in Heat, the light on Eady’s face makes the whole scene seem unreal, like the thank you letter in Taxi Driver.



Sometimes, shots in Heat seem messy, because there is so much stuff being shown. Cars parked in the street. Books on a table. But it’s all deliberate. Look at how acetic this shot is:



I love this shot so much:



Another straight-on shot showing a tender moment of human connection: McCauley telling Van Zant he is going to kill him.



Another straight-on shot. This time, the background is distant and Hanna is completely alone in the green cold.




The straight-on shots, though often about impending death, are also about recognition. I find great meaning in fact that Hanna and McCauley are the only characters who really understand each other. These two shots are where it begins:




The robbers watching the cops



When McCauley walks into the bank, that click click click music sets the pace for the final part of the film. Though it doesn’t feel like it. Part of the reason the shoot-out is so wonderful is that is happens in what feels like the middle of the film. But this is where an unstoppable series of events happen over a few days that feel like a line of dominoes going over.


I love the change of Val Kilmer’s face when he sees the police.




And the final straight-on shots.






Strangely, not mirrored from Hanna’s perspective.



The final frame. Aeroplanes landing to mirror the trains arriving in the first scene.



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Tristan Perich, MOMA

Tristan Perich, MOMA


1500 one-bit speakers, each playing a different pitch. Moving around in front of the exhibit produced a great variety of auditory hallucinations.


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Design is One

Design is One

A documentary about Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Mostly fawning interviews with colleagues and unenlightening interviews with the subjects about their working relationship. These moments stood out:


An examination of how Massimo chooses typefaces. “He thinks about it carefully, then chooses Helvetica.” He listed a few serif typefaces as worthwhile: Times New Roman, Garamond, Bodini. And a few sans serif typefaces: Helvetica, Futura.


The examples of him using a grid system for layout.


The cup and saucer he designed for Heller. Users complained about the original version, saying that the half-moon cut out for the U-shape of the handle let the contents spill out. The version in wide use had that hole plugged by a piece of plastic. See the picture below. Massimo complained that the complainers were unsophisticated: the cup was designed for drinking demi-tasse, and should not be filled to the brim.



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Chronicle

Chronicle


I saw [this](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicle_(film)) on an aeroplane seat TV screen, and I was still completely entranced. It takes a premise and follows it logically, soberly and ruthlessly to a conclusion.


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GTA V

GTA V


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Le Joli Mai

Le Joli Mai


Two and a half hours of interviews  with ordinary Parisians. Spoilt by its tendencies towards funny moments, abstract narration and partisan ideas.


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Le Mepris

Le Mepris

I saw this at Film Forum tonight. It was an unending fountain of ideas.











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Chromatics, These Streets Will Never Look the Same

Chromatics, These Streets Will Never Look the Same

Kill for Love, the record from which this song comes, is the soundtrack to winter 2013, just like Beach House’s Teen Dream was the soundtrack to summer 2010 in Berlin. Both are synthy pop, which is not normally my sort of thing. But both records are deep and versatile. They work when walking through the street at four p.m. or seven a.m. They work when writing code. They can conjure romantic associations.


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Sleater Kinney, Good Things

Sleater Kinney, Good Things

06%20Good%20Things.mp3


Reminds me of my second year at university.


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A song composed of nerdy pick-up lines

A song composed of nerdy pick-up lines

Nerdy Love Song with Added Kitten Bonus! - YouTube


I feel like in a year I will look back and be embarrassed I posted this. Or maybe I will be a huge softie by then and love it. Any which way, right now, it is pretty great.


“I want to be your abacus, baby. You can count on me.”


“I less than three you.”


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The Last of Us

The Last of Us


Spoilers


I cried several times. I particularly enjoyed the passage where you switch back and forth between Ellie and Joel.


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How to Read a Film, James Monaco

How to Read a Film, James Monaco

Abstraction - pure form - became the touchstone of the work of art and the main criterion by which works of art were judged in the twentieth century.


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My sister playing pin the tail on the donkey

My sister playing pin the tail on the donkey


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The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast


The film completely falls apart in the second half. But there are some wonderful bits. The gravity-powered ceiling fan that has to be periodically cranked. The man-made ice that melts away in the jungle. The regularisation of nature by sheer will.


No still from the film is appropriate. I could have put up a clip of Ford pacing around as he talks about his building plans, the camera barely able to keep up with him. I could have put in the clip where Ford realises the people are taking the ice for granted. But the poster is the best still. The way Ford looks puzzled, and wistful, and like he is looking at a glorious future he can just make out in the distance.


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The air

The air

The air with which Lea Massari moves through the hours before her disappearance in  L'Avventura  is like the way the girls walk up the stone formation before disappearing in  Picnic at Hanging Rock . Even before they go, they’re already gone.


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Your Sister’s Sister

Your Sister’s Sister

Your Sister's Sister - Wikipedia



Another very truthy film from Lynn Shelton. Though the plot is fantastical, the sober writing and acting keep it feeling real.


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The Frick

The Frick

On Sunday, I went to the Frick, which knocked me sideways. It was like being in the Wallace, except even more intimate. Seeing those paintings in a (relatively) every day environment made them much more moving.


There was Adoration of the Magi by Bastini. Everyone looking at Jesus but bad-tempered Joseph, and Jesus looking at Mary. That wonderful circle of red from smock to armour to blouse to hat.



One of my faves was Lippi’s Annunciation. I like the fact that he decided to make both Mary and Gabriel deferential to each other. I like the great pillar between them. And I found it so interesting that, like so many medieval and early Renaissance paintings, the events take place in a weird, barren, classical room with a wall missing that reveals nothingness.



Mrs Baker.



My favourite Gainsborough was of Frances Duncombe. Her expression seems the exact image of a newly married woman.



There was a terrible one of St James’s Park. The landscape was bad (as always), but the little people were indefinite and bad, too.



There are a number of Vermeers. This one left me rather cold, but for the iridescent window that the reproduction below completely fails to convey.



I much preferred this Vermeer, Mistress and Maid. I liked how the expressions of the mistress and maid matched so well that they looked like they were actually at a particular moment in their conversation, perhaps a discussion of some accounts. I liked the fineness of the painting of the mistress’s curls and the folds of her cloak.



I discovered Ingres, who I had never heard of before. I was surprised to discover he lived in the nineteenth century. Comtesse d'Haussonville. Good chair with yellow drape. Good folds of dress. I liked how the Comtesse is being watched in the mirror. It’s a shame Ingres didn’t get the reflection quite right.



There was a good Veronese, the Choice of Hercules. A wonderfully classical face on the woman in green.




What was funny was that all these fantastic paintings lived in the same house as miles and miles of horrendous, drossy, sentimental frescoes. There were whole rooms of floor to ceiling wall paintings of young girls and boys with rosy cheeks leaping in gardens and handing each other roses.


Finally, there was Whistler, who has always left me rather cold. But, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink was oddly moving.



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The Met

The Met

They had Canaletto’s painting of Piazza San Marco, which my mum would have liked, but which leaves me rather cold. All those precise people.



They had some Caravaggio.


A wonderful picture of a lute player whose sardonic, superior expression recalls ‘60s era Bob Dylan.



And The Denial of St Peter, with the woman being discreetly persuasive.



They had a whole room of Rembrandt. My favourite was Herman Doomer. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners. The way they shone with fluid and looked so human. The wispiness of his beard.



I found Danae by Gentileschi, who I had not heard of. A facsimile of an outstretched hand. A relentlessly well painted tucked in sheet.



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Index pages: home, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12