This book is a great resource for people who lack a science degree but want to understand some of the intrincacies of art materials and conservation....more This book is a great resource for people who lack a science degree but want to understand some of the intrincacies of art materials and conservation. It is not intended as an artist manual. Painters with some experience will find it interesting however, and the novice artist will get a very clear overview of the different kinds of art materials and what they have in common. For example, you will learn what are the different kinds of carbohydrate based binders (gums), protein based binders (tempera, casein) and others, like tryglicerides (oil) beeswax (hydrocarbon and fatty acids) and natural resins (diterpenoids and triterpenoids). Also, how binders can be clasifiend in water soluble and not soluble. This clear and crisp clasifications remove much of the misteries surrounding "art recipes" and will help avoid costly mistakes. A great section also are the chapters dealing with teh nature of pigment (not enough, that's why I remove a star) and color/light. Much of the book is devoted to the techniques used to identify forgeries and why these techniques work. That said, the first five chapters should be obligatory reading to any art student. There are even some neat cone and rod eye anatomy lessons! What it is missing in my opinion is a whole lot of other chapters that would have been very interesting for an artist, not just a conservator, like a lot more information on preparation of materials, safety and , why not, a few formulas to preserve artwork for the centuries. Alas, that was not the intention and the book accomplishes in a few pages what others seriously lack. Moreover, there is avery fadcinating article on how to paint artwork only visible with an atomic reactor, a beautiful list of color pigments by index of refraction and atomic structure as well as some heady stuff on how conservators can determina teh age of an artwork by the reaction of the pigments to x-rays, infrared and even the dendrochronology of the wood used in the panels. (less)
A lot of painting books are written by mediocre painters and have ambitious titles like "Create a masterpiece portrait like the masters, blah blah bl...more A lot of painting books are written by mediocre painters and have ambitious titles like "Create a masterpiece portrait like the masters, blah blah blah..." In reality, they are just vanity books. Nothing wrong with that but they fll the shelves for no reason at all and I usually look at the authors paintings FIRST. Only then do I see if I can spend some time reading about the author's insights. Emile Gruppe's Gloucester harbor (Mass) paintings are quite astonishing so I picked up the book at the library. It is certainly an honest "direct" approach to his work and I was more than happy to devote a couple of hours to it. I recognized some techniques from my own practice, a few fun opinions, and some new stuff as well, not a lot. Some things might sound a bit old fashioned regarding materials and easels but the main pleasure was certainly derived from looking at the magnificent paintings. Those don't grow old. (less)
Unless you are a political junkie interested in every last detail of James A. Garfield's sudden and unexpected rise to the Presidency, this book is no...moreUnless you are a political junkie interested in every last detail of James A. Garfield's sudden and unexpected rise to the Presidency, this book is not for you. Painstakingly researched with every protagonist, every meeting, discussion, shopping trip, train trip, ballot count and luncheon that was ever recorded and some that weren't, this is as narrow as it gets to understand the times and mores of James A. Garfield. The narrative happens in a bubble and I was hoping for a wider view. The characters are purely political animals fleshed only as far as as it's useful to understand their ambitions, no more. Any larger issue like the state of the nation after the civil war, the temperance movement, the international ambitions of the U.S, the actual electoral issues like tariffs and unlimited silver coinage, etc...are dutiful listed but never expanded on while every cabinet nomination and everyone of Conkling's tantrum runs for pages on end. So I add one star for the research involved. Some segments are readable,specially towards the end. After all, it is a murder. It is also a murder that forced some people to gain persceptive like it did for Chester A. Arthur who succeeded Garfield. many people remained the same without learning anything like Guiteau, who was a deeply trouble man, or Roscoe Conkling, who saw everything as a personal issue. Even Grant seemed likeable after the President fell. In coclusion, a lot of the text seems to be a narrated and expanded transcription of Garfield's diaries, party convention records and Guiteau's court proceedings. I wish I had just gotten a book on the "Guilded Age" and not have to plow through the barrage of dates and facts which can only please people with an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Congress or career politicos. even Garfield's death which seems to have been sheer agony is a play-by-play account with every probe, infection and bowel movement spelled out. Agein, the author put a commnedable effort in accounting foer everything. It makes good history, not a great time for the casual reader. One thing that comes across quite clearly though: just like back then, money, power and ambition is the broth that feeds lawmaking.(less)
Great book for beginners and people that "think" they can not draw. Whether it's the right side or the left side or your knees that do the thinking, i...moreGreat book for beginners and people that "think" they can not draw. Whether it's the right side or the left side or your knees that do the thinking, its quite irrelevant and I wish the author didn't put so much stake on the dubious inner workings and preliminary science of the mind. What is useful is the series of exercises that allow students to disconnect from the symbolic and verbal way of thinking when taking a realistic approach to drawing. This goes for painting as well in many aspects. I think the leap in confidence the book allows is remarkable for the immense majority of people that have allowed their logic to interfere with the proper way of seeing and translating what one sees, not merely as things but as shapes. I also liked the author's take on children and preadolescent art. Unlike many psychologists that ascribe convoluted theories to children's drawings, the author looks here for consequences of developing a language of symbols in the formal evolution of art while striving for realism and loosing the natural instinct for composition in the process.
This is a great book to start. But once you've mastered the idea and are able to go into the trance, drawing what is in front of you, observing contours and negative shapes and generally looking without thinking , the next phase involves some serious , ahem, left brain activity. A realistic drawing is within reach but now you'll need to move on and make a good drawing. For that, there are plenty of other great books out there that will teach perspective (this book reduces it to a useful but limited extension of the previous techniques of mirroring the sighting), the creation of volume from within the figure, composition, edge and tone manipulation, etc.
The power of achieving a qualitative step cannot be understated and therefore I recommend this book and its exercises with no reserves. Just don't get too enamored with which part of the brain is doing the work. I think that sells books but it might not be as useful to you.(less)
Ah, the irony. This book was written at the beginning of the 1990's when most countries of South America and Central America were in the grips of comp...moreAh, the irony. This book was written at the beginning of the 1990's when most countries of South America and Central America were in the grips of comparative despair and poverty. Forward 20 years later and it seems the governments in these formerly poor countries were taking these lessons dispensed by the superpowers to heart . Get your house in order they said. And then, the U.S. saw the biggest economic collapse in a long time and Canada seems poised to become another greedy oil-monger. In a way, the book was correct, the advancement of countries like Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and others has been short of spectacular. Granted, the latinamerican "idiot" is still alive and kicking with his Che Guevara t-shirts and his demagogic speeches. In some cases it rose to power like in Venezuela or Bolivia or stayed put like in Cuba who still today is quietly begging for foreign investment (what do we think lifting the embargo means). So yes, investment, competition, wealth creation and in short, capitalism has generally lifted a few boats and continues to do so despite endemic corruption and crony privileges. It's very exciting what's happening in Mexico, one could only imagine where Mexico would be if they could get rid of the drug traffic scourge and the whole folklorico-religious-raza idiocy. Unfortunately, the book was so entranced by the wealth creation mechanisms of places like the U.S., New Zealand, South Korea, and Spain, yes, Spain, that it missed how frail some of that wealth was and how it was also skirting true market competitiveness. In the U.S. it was real estate sand castles and corporations manipulating the market and getting bailouts, in New Zealand it was movie studios dictating labor laws and Spain, well, it will be a miracle if it ever climbs out of the hole it made. The sad part is that today the U.S. and some of the formerly hopeless Republics of the south seem to resemble each other more and more and the net sum seems to target the lower common denominator, the gap between rich and poor and the harm done to the middle class in the wealthier countries while the standard of living in places like Brazil and Mexico might render our immigration walls moot in a few years because we will be the ones looking for jobs there. Sure, doesn't seem plausible just yet but give it twenty more years.(less)
I really enjoyed David Rakoff's ability to find just the right word or the exact movie reference for every situation. Beyond his accurate aim, he is...more I really enjoyed David Rakoff's ability to find just the right word or the exact movie reference for every situation. Beyond his accurate aim, he is hilarious as well. In this book, Rakoff strolls and bitches about some choice bubbles of contemporary madness afflicting the moneyed. Fashion, the now defunct Concorde, cryogenics, faux rusticity, fasting, cosmetic surgery,Log Cabin Republicans, food snobbery...all ailments of people too wealthy and pampered to see the idiocy. But Rakoff does not just slash, he comes across as someone too smart to just condemn (save for some choice epithets thrown the way of Barbara Bush and Karl Lagerfeld, two old c**ts, no question.) Rakoff writes deeply about the shallow ends of the upper crust by revealing their fears and pretense. Still, it is a book about the shallow ends, it makes for good fun despite the unflinching observation and the occasional moral outrage. I hope to read more from this author on matters other than the decadence of the pampered profligate and the "monstrocracy."(less)
The downfall of much historical fiction is that it is written with feet firmly planted in modern and local sensibility. This is the unfortunate case...more The downfall of much historical fiction is that it is written with feet firmly planted in modern and local sensibility. This is the unfortunate case of this book. That is not to say that "The Birth of Venus" was boring or badly written. On the contrary, it's quite easy to read. However, if you are expecting to submerge yourself in the Italian Renaissance, you might be disappointed to get what amounts to a Nancy Drew novel with some sex and plague thrown in for backdrop. The main character, Alessandra C, is the daughter of a rich florentine merchant. Against expectations of the time, she harbors artistic ambitions and a mind eager for learning. Of course, her whole family either mocks those pursuits or tries to make her desist for her own good. Florence is in the grips of the fiery Savonarola and his particular brand of religious fanaticism and misogynistic ideals. Alessandra is an observer and despite her curiosity she remains one. Beyond family and marriage nothing she does matters in the least and for all her bravado she is constantly protected and saved by others. Alessandra is well intentioned but rebellious and her mother is as loving as she is exasperated. We get it. She impresses other learned men but shows a great deal of indifference to matters of business and politics so remains that sort of proto-feminist. She likes to witness History but shuns participating beyond walking the streets at dangerous times. Erila, her slave, fares not much better. She is black and powerful, independent and dignified. A slave who knows how to find her way regardless and is not bound by convention. In short, another cliche of modern making. Black servants and citizens were common during the Renaissance in Europe and some of them surely were powerful and dignified but Erila and her earthy ancient wisdom is this close to a caricature. Not to ruin the plot, sodomy figures prominently in it and, again, it is talked about with bafflement that such nice people as the sodomites could be considered so depraved. In other words, the way patronizing but fair minded people talked about gays in the fifties. And that's why the novel ultimately fails. It's a domestic drama against some events of historical relevance but there is no real connection. Throw in some disemboweled corpses, some explicit sex, some torture and some plague, some Botticelli and some Medici name dropping and you get the gist. (less)
Fun and sweet book about sex. Like many reviewers mention, the nods to Freud and artistic attraction seem out of place in this very brief but well wri...moreFun and sweet book about sex. Like many reviewers mention, the nods to Freud and artistic attraction seem out of place in this very brief but well written tome. The bibliography is also brief and unscientific. Guess what, so is the subject. I wish I had read this in my teens but I was too,worried with sex then to nod in agreement like a do now to the beautiful conclusions Alain de Botton presents here. I loved every chapter including the one about pornography and marriage. Do not expect lurid details or titillating prose. This is a philosophical book much in line with others from the same author.(less)
Good book . The best part is the introduction where Paglia advocates for art education and argues against the elitism of the art world with convincing...moreGood book . The best part is the introduction where Paglia advocates for art education and argues against the elitism of the art world with convincing arguments. Then she proceeds to comment over a short selection of pieces from a selection of historical styles . Her analysis are interesting even when sometimes she lingers too much on the symbolic and even when she seems to enthuse too much towards the end, especially regarding George Lucas as an artist. She considers religious art an essential part of art history and rejects both the liberal notion that it should be expunged all references to religious notions and the conservative notion that artists are little more than con men and depend on government grants. Some of my favorite essays include the ones on The Book of Kells, Tamara de Lempicka, Caspar David Friedrich and Mondrian. (less)
If you are not a bioscientist, there is no amount of explanation that will allow the average person to justify the conclusions presented in this book. And McDuff doesn't waste too much time trying to explain the science either. He starts with two reasonable definitions for "health" and "fitness" and explains why they don't necessarily go together. Great start. Yes, marathons can kill you and endless runing is not good on your joints. Then he moves into a quick overview of metabolism in a brief chapter that seems to miss his intended audience completely while probably , and I say probably because I have no clue, being scientifically accurate. A doctor might find this chapter repetitive or lacking in depth and a lay person will certainly find it incomprehensible. In any case, molecule names are thrown around, ATPs an pyruvates make an appearance and the "who's who" in mitochondrial town gets a parade. Fine. You trust that the guy knows what he is talking about and move on. I wish, however, he would have cleared up the lingo and explained the process in wider terms. The vague idea one must digest is that the body is prepared to release energy on call , under stress, and store it in the muscle for later use if needed.
The basic premise takes a couple of YouTube videos to understand but, again, it's a faith system. What we call aerobic exercise might not be as effective as we think, what matters most is to perform some high intensity exercises with a wide recovery time in between. McGuff gives 5 examples. He also goes into diet suggestions. Nothing too groundbreaking here. I wish the language was less antagonistic withe the usual "you've been doing it all wrong" theme that leads nowhere and is so common in all these exercise and training books. Most of them are rarely THAT revolutionary and all of them are usually an improvement on what people do already. This book is meant for people who already train and exercise in some way or another and want to add a bit of scientific foundation, flimsy as it may be, to their method.
It all makes intuitive sense in a way. Mostly because it seems true that our bodies evolved to handle a hunter-gatherer world. It also makes sense that we live longer and inducing timed hormonal panic-attacks would be a more efficient way to create fat burning muscles than walking on a treadmill day after day with a calories-in, calories-out mindset. All in all, most people will get all they need just looking up high intensity training and paleo diet articles and videos. The science, and especially the conclusions derived from the science need a much more in-depth chemistry and biology thesis. This book might allow trainers -and worse, the "industry" to use some impressive sounding words as they usually do and it's clearly aimed at supporting and polishing peoples workout habits. The tone the book doesn't differ in any substantial way from other books on training and exercise. Is it the last word? Who knows. If it helps motivate people, great. I applied some of the methods, doing his suggested routine once-a-week for 12 minutes even though I might not have been pushing as hard and slow as he suggests and got some good results so no complains. (less)
Second tome of the series "Les rois maudits" by Maurice Druon. I thought it was even better and darker than "Le roi de fer", the first tome. Couldn't...more Second tome of the series "Les rois maudits" by Maurice Druon. I thought it was even better and darker than "Le roi de fer", the first tome. Couldn't put it down. The story now focuses on the kingdom of Louis X, the Obstinate. Frail, weak and with none of the kingly traits of his deceased father Phillip, he allows the factions that were up till now held in check by the former king to manipulate and deceive him. The barons, led by Charles de Valois, see the void in leadership as an opportunity to gain lost ground against the ministers placed by the former king to hold the kingdom together. The barons want to go back to the old ways when they were able to wage war against each other, mint their own coin and excise their own taxes. Their main foe is the minister Marigny, a bureaucrat with no nobility credentials but skilled in finance and politics, the true architect of French power. The king only cares about a new marriage to Clemence of Hungary but his disgraced wife queen Marguerite is still alive, albeit in prison, at Chateu Galliard. He needs the Pope to annul his former marriage but, alas, there is no Pope yet and he needs to have one elected that will bend to his will. The election of the Pope needs to be bought and quickly but not everyone thinks that's a good idea or that the new marriage will solve France's problems. They might even get worse. As winter and famine ravage the country; the Pope election is delayed; queen Marguerite refuses to give up her claims, Princess Clemence is under a strict deadline in Naples; the Barons are starting to become unruly; the Ministers of the king are smeared with true and false charges; all kinds of murder and mayhem start to unfold. The savvy Lombard banker Tolomei, always ready to pounce for profit under the guise of lending a helping hand, sees in the nation's dissolution a golden opportunity to increase his stake and become the true ruler of France and force the kings hand in his, and his guild's benefit.
The book has a beautiful climactic crescendo, all the intrigue is well crafted and tightly connected. I'm sure Druon took all kinds of liberties with his cinematic version of historical events but if you are going to write historic fiction, this is the way to do it. (less)
This is a great historical novel. It is well crafted, nicely written and very very French. It is part of a series of books that narrate the vicissitu...more This is a great historical novel. It is well crafted, nicely written and very very French. It is part of a series of books that narrate the vicissitudes of the french monarchy after the murder of the Knight Templars and their grand master Jaques de Molay. The story of this first book, "Le Roi de Fer", involves king Phillip IV The Fair and his problems to obtain revenue (I said it was very French), maintain the power and stability of France and keep his household in check. Considering the historical sources the author might have consulted, he has done a great job at fleshing out the details to make the story flow. He has created a compelling story which is not burdened by unnecessary historical erudition or inquiries into every detail of french life during the fourteenth century. But the book delves a bit into the ideological currents like the baronial conservatism of some factions against the modernizing powers of the bourgeoisie, the ascent of the Lombards -the bankers of the time, and the moral and practical difficulties of running a kingdom always on the brink of a crisis. The book abounds in intrigue with all the necessary elements of corruption, espionage and murder to keep the reader following along. We have the adultery of the Kings' daughters-in-law, exposed by the King's own daughter, Isabel of England, married to Edward the Second but deeply unhappy due to her husband lack of interest in her. We have the King's predatory ways towards the fortune of the Templars. We have the ambitions of several throne pretenders like Robert the Valois, the Scarlett Knight, and his aunt Mahaud whose fortunes suddenly turn from favor to hate. And we also have the story of young banker Guccio in his first mission on behalf of the Lombards. Easy to read and a great time. (less)
This book has some good qualities. It follows the experience of one Ida Trubman as she checks herself in a psychiatric clinic due to her inability to...more This book has some good qualities. It follows the experience of one Ida Trubman as she checks herself in a psychiatric clinic due to her inability to function as a normal human being. She has been diagnosed somewhat vaguely with depression.
The fist thing that will jump out at the reader in the U.S. is how marvelous the German health system is that would allow for eight or more weeks of therapy for depression at a clinic at apparently no cost. The author complains a lot about the wait and formalities but any American suffering with this condition would find the complaints ludicrous.
The character of Ida is quite unlikable. Her disease allows her to ignore normal social conventions while at the same time she expects , no, demands that these conventions be used with her. The mere suggestion that she uses her depression as a convenient excuse to be left alone sends her in such a fit one suspects the therapy might be working but not as the magic pill she seems to expect. In many ways, Ida being relatively young, it is hard to distinguish if what she has is true depression or a mere existential dissatisfaction.
Her language is rhythmic, she goes on rants and recites lists of the symptoms of her unease with the gusto of a slam poet. The description of symptoms, the avalanche of words with which she enjoys burying her doctors -once prodded- is probably one of the merits of the book, it seems realistic and many will find empathy with its detail. On the other hand, it feels that she is on a self-pity race to the bottom, trying to outdo everyone in the ward. She uses sarcasm and irony but she can't really handle when it's turned on her . She seems very uncomfortable not being considered unique or worthy of total dedication and likes to compare regular life with TV commercials and find real life lacking. Whether this is a real depression I'll leave to the experts.
There are a few twists in the plot that keep the interest going. This is no great piece of literature but it feels real enough even thought it describes a somewhat narrow and hopeless situation. I found the relationship of Ida with her parents hard to fathom. Again, the American reader will find it strange that the parents of Ida would put up with her dependency on them paired with her complete disregard and diminishing of their emotions.
So, do I recommend this book? I can't say I do. I appreciate someone talking about depression, a disease that is as serious as misunderstood and as multifaceted as the individuals that suffer under its thumb. I fear people reading it, especially young people, might confuse apathy or loneliness with depression and find Ida alluring enough to use her as a role model of sorts. But may be it's a good thing someone is talking. (less)
Besides the fact that the (deceased unfortunately) author loves to add lots of footnotes and use acronyms all over the place, this book was excellent...more Besides the fact that the (deceased unfortunately) author loves to add lots of footnotes and use acronyms all over the place, this book was excellent. I really didn't care much for the subject of the essays but the author writes magnificently and he has a great ability to turn the topics at hand into quasi-philosophical articles. (less)
Cannot recommend this book enough to anybody that loves Velazquez's art and is interested in his techniques and the circumstances of his artwork. The...moreCannot recommend this book enough to anybody that loves Velazquez's art and is interested in his techniques and the circumstances of his artwork. The text is clear and mercifully concise. The introduction delves in Velazquez's life and technique (pigments, canvas, grounds) and the rest of the book elaborates on individual paintings from the Prado collection including "Las Meninas","The Weavers", many portraits of kings,queens,dwarves and officials, his two famous Plein air landscapes from Villa Medici and other religious commissions. The illustrations are superb with many detailed close ups and x rays. Velazquez rarely made preparatory work for his paintings and this book shows his creative process "on the fly" by pointing out corrections and changes done while the painter searched for the best solutions. Velazquez's economy of brush strokes, his adaptation of technique to each new challenge and his more than miraculous visual understanding are dutifully expounded upon. The biographical notes and historical details of relevance never crowd the text but invite the reader to further exploration. A must have for any art lover or anybody wondering what all the fuss is about.(less)