Goodbye to All That

Aside from a couple of wonderful and unexpected instances of very touching generosity, January of 2006 has been a pretty lousy month. Yes, even though Corpse Bride is now on DVD, as of today, it picked the last day of the month as if knowing there was no way of salvaging this desiccated hulk but it still needed a Tuesday and didn’t want to fight with Curse of the Wererabbit.

During this first bit of 2006, I finished one short story, realized that a recording project was just sinking dismally into the swamp of Unrealized Ideas, and did no painting. At least, no painting that I won’t paint over as soon as the opportunity presents itself. It’s as if, in terms of creativity, this month didn’t exist.

Of course, yawn, I did finish up one major project at work which was hanging over my head like an Acme Anvil for nearly half a year. (I even have the little hand sign that says “Help!”) But so what? Geez, that’s work. That’s the thing I do to pay my bills and buy canvases. If I’m ever in Who’s Who I sure hope my entry isn’t going to be something like “did stuff at his job.” I’d much prefer “supervillain” but the applications are always missing at the Post Office. Of course, they claim there never were any. I’m not fooled.

I sure hope the rest of 2006 isn’t going to be like this. Otherwise, I’m going to plant my feet firmly in the doorway (where those lilacs last bloom’d) and, despite the entreaties of friends and relations, I am not going to go.

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“Three Colors Cezanne”

2006 marks the centennial of the death of Paul Cezanne, and it also marks the year that I finally got a long-coveted documentary about the man and his work, “Three Colors Cezanne.”

This is a wonderful film, in equal parts survey of his work, discussion of particulars of some of his major canvases, and a biographical sketch. It’s only a sketch because, as the many artists and historians point out, not much is known about Cezanne beyond a few dates and some supposition. An intensely private man, he found the company of other people very uncomfortable and preferred to work in solitude.

There’s some Freudian speculation about his fear of women informing some of his early work, which is robust, dark and dramatic and frequently deals with colossal nudes and violent acts. He returned to some of these themes late in life, in fact using some of the sketches he had made of the Old Masters when he was a young man visiting the Louvre. Freudian speculation I can take; it’s one of those things you can listen to and either ignore or believe, but it rarely affects the perception of the work in question.

And the works in question are masterpieces of landscape and still-life. The various experts do a very good job of illuminating the themes and methods underlying these works, which amazingly does not diminish their power; instead, where I once saw vague hints of future art schools in his work, now they’re right there in the open, as obvious as the nose on, uh, my face. His still-life images always seemed to me like they were being upended on me as I looked at them, and it’s pointed out how he used different perspectives—the raison d’etre of cubism—within the same canvas. This film showed me things I had not seen before. What more can one ask of any movie?

Image and sound are excellent throughout, and there are lots of his canvases on display, as well as photographs and other archival material. One trick that was employed only a few times was the presentation of a landscape, with Cezanne’s canvas suddenly superimposed on it. I’d have liked to see more of that, but that’s a very minor quibble.

Cezanne can probably be safely considered the first “modern” artist, by which I mean the artist who wanted to put his own thoughts and feelings and impressions on the canvas, and chose paint to make his point without first developing the painterly skills of the Old Masters he admired. Saying, I think for the first time, the heck with making things people might like. This is what I want on this canvas. Because his ideas and vision outweighed his artistic “shortcomings” (which are debatable if they exist at all), his art transcends narcissism. Pity the same can’t be said about those who followed in his footsteps, who saw the “self expression” part as the most important aspect of being an artist, but that’s a rant for another time.

This past July while in New York, I visited the Museum of Modern Art, and saw a dual exhibition of Cezanne and his friend and contemporary, Camille Pissarro. These were canvases that the two did while traveling together. This film brings the memories of those works back vividly. Highly recommended.

This review brought to you in part by F.R. Angel, to whom it is dedicated.

It’s All True(Space)

The image Tuesday’s post (below) was created using trueSpace, an animation program from Caligari systems. Everything in it (other than the photographs) was created “natively,” ie, I didn’t have to import any outside graphics or textures (other than the photographs).

I’ve been using trueSpace for years and I like the program a lot. I haven’t done a lot of animation with it, but it’s great for creating still images too. Considering the price of most computer animation software, it’s relatively inexpensive. (Of course, you can get a “learner’s version” of Alias’ Maya for free.)

I currently use version 4.3 of trueSpace; they just released version 7. Will I upgrade? Maybe. One of the things I dislike about software upgrades is the fact that they give the User Interface guy free reign. I actually own trueSpace 5.2, but I never use it. Why? Because none of the damn buttons can be found where I’m used to finding them. When I upgraded from 3, it took me weeks to find everything again, and I honestly find that tiring. I can almost hear the UI guy: “A new version? Cool! I’ll move all the menu commands to different areas! It’ll be great and I can say I’ve earned my keep!” Honestly, what’s the point of changing the menus? Add new menus if you’re adding new features.

Cough, well, sorry about that folks! Anyway, you can download trial versions of Caligari’s stuff and see if you like it, too. And I’m not affiliated with them so I won’t see a penny!

UPDATE: One of the animations I did is here, if you’re interested. It’s a big file (over two and a half megs) so right-clicking and saving-to is recommended.

Not *Quite* Dead

No Cat

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? As the title cleverly makes clear for those of you who might have thought I had died in vain (or in milk), I’m not quite dead. I think I could pull through, in fact. Actually, I think I’m all right to come with you, sir. Really, I feel fine.

Ah. Well, I’ll just wait here for a bit, then.

Well, the bad news is, I didn’t find the Grail. The good news is, hang on a moment, “Inspected by Number 34.”

Damn. Wore the wrong pants again.

I’m hoping to have things to say shortly, but for the moment, I think I must have left them in my other pants as well.

That’s rather the problem with pants, isn’t it? Not that I’m suggesting the alternative.

Chu- Chu- Chu- Ha- Ha- Ha-

I don’t consider myself a terribly superstitious person, but that’s a subjective viewpoint and someone else might look at me and think very differently. Or they might look at me and think, I think that guy owes me money. (I don’t, though.)

One of the things that does seem to bother me, though, is the number thirteen. When swimming, I go faster between laps twelve and fourteen, and when doing miles on the treadmill, I always plan the day’s work so that I don’t end on thirteen.

And here it is, Friday the Thirteenth.

I think I read somewhere that thirteen was originally considered unlucky because there were thirteen people at the Last Supper, and we all know where that led.

Otherwise, I don’t have a clue. I could look it up on the internet, I suppose, and laugh at my primitive foolishness, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it wouldn’t be funny for the other people. Like the ones who think I owe them money.

They don’t seem to think anything’s funny, though.

“The 600 Series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy.”

Though I appear to scorn all appearance of vanity, I should confess that I’m not entirely immune. So, I have it set up here that when comments are left, they’re then emailed to me. It gives me a nice, reassuring feeling to know that I do, in fact, exist.

Consequently, I was a bit non-plussed to receive a comment thanking me for my writings on gold nuggets, informing me that the commentor had his own site dealing with gold nuggets, and finishing by saying that while I was not exactly helpful in his quest, he found my blog interesting enough to add it to his bookmarks before he had to move on in his endeavor.

Normally, that sounds like a spam-comment, doesn’t it? I have, however, turned Word Verification on, which leads me to two conclusions: the Word Verification thing has been cracked at last, or this was a genuine commentor.

Adding evidence to the former case was the fact that I couldn’t remember ever writing anything about gold nuggets. But I went though some entries until I found the one where the comment was left: my way overlong ruminations on Spirited Away’s No Face…who could produce gold nuggets from his hands.

A ha, so perhaps this was a legitimate comment after all. Using my computer at work (I’m not much of a fool), I looked at the chap’s profile, which led me to his blog. There was a single entry there, about a particular kind of gold which was rather interesting, I have to admit. Along with the same link to his website (which I was not going to go to). I also noted that he had comments on this entry.

Clicking to see if they were something along the lines of “Stop spamming my blog!” I instead discovered…two comments.

Both exact duplicates of the one I had received on my entry. Including the bit about how the info wasn’t here wasn’t helpful, so he was going to move on after bookmarking. Posted an hour apart from each other.

Well.

Mr. Gold Nugget, I certainly wish you well in your endeavors; I hope you don’t end up like Fred C. Dobbs (remember to ask about badges). But if you’re a genuine commentor, and not a malevolent robot, you really should learn to write a bit less mechanically, and perhaps make a couple of variants.

Yes, yes, I know the answer: “Just get off my back! Just stay off my back! Will you get off my back!”

Don’t you just hate people who have to make movie references all the time? I do.