Wulf's Webden

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Sunday 23 June 2019
by Wulf

Yo cantaba

If I’ve got it right, that means “I sang” in Spanish and that – singing in Spanish – is what I did this afternoon, playing bass with SoWotJazz at The Ferryboat, a lovely pub in Whitchurch on Thames.

It was just for one song out of the twenty or more that we performed but I think it came off fairly well. I did check afterwards if there were any Spanish speakers in the audience but there weren’t. Therefore, no quality check on the language but the band and the audience seemed happy with the singing and playing.

The song was Besame Mucho, composed by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez in 1940. I based my interpretation on an evocative version by Cesária Évora although, checking tonight, suggests she sang most of her songs in a Portuguese-based creole so may have not been the best choice for Spanish fluency. It is lovely though and you can hear her version on YouTube:

What do the lyrics mean? Again, to the best of my Spanish ability (okay, supported by online translation engines): “Kiss me many times, as if it was our last night; kiss me many times because I fear I will lose you forever”. I think it sounds better in Spanish… even in my Spanish.

Saturday 22 June 2019
by Wulf


Jane and I took a walk in Bernwood Forest today. It is nearby and not nearly as large as the name makes it sound but it is still a decent patch of woodland with good tracks and trails running through it.

We also took our sketching equipment and spent quite a while sitting quietly, painting and drawing. A few people passed up and down the path but it wasn’t busy. Then I heard a sound, looked round and saw what I first thought was a rabbit about 20′ away. Except it was too large for a rabbit and turned out to be a hare, closer than I’ve seen one before.

It hopped along through the woodland but without particular signs of panic and Jane and I got to enjoy its passage past us.

Friday 21 June 2019
by Wulf

I Came to Dance Again

After my post earlier this month, I went back to Modern Art Oxford last week and did some more sketching from Claudette Johnson’s I Came to Dance exhibition. This time, I did quick sketches of three of the large portraits in one of the galleries, using a different colour for each and then coming back with purple to combine them (and working up a few details with the original colours and a wet brush in places):

I Came to Dance - 2
Three Portraits

Of course, you haven’t seen the sketch from the first session yet (unless you also keep an eye on my Flickr photostream). That time, I worked from one of Johnson’s portraits but using multiple colours:

I Came to Dance - 1

Looking back, I’m quite intrigued by how Johnson’s work drew out a similar approach from me both times, with multiple felt tips used directly rather than working on an underdrawing. It wasn’t so much of a conscious choice as what felt right in my hands to respond to what I saw. For what it is worth, Johnson’s work tend to use pastels and gouache so I wasn’t directly echoing her media.

I’ll have at least one trip back because Magnus was keen to visit when he is in Oxford later next month but I might spend another lunchtime or two there just by myself too.

Thursday 20 June 2019
by Wulf

Going for Bronze

Last year, I posted very positively about the Jinhao fountain pen I’d picked up for work at a bargain price. It has served well but the flow has gradually got worse despite cleaning. For some time, it has taken a few test strokes to get it running in the morning and, more recently, I’ve sometimes only been able to write with the nib upside down. It might be possible to fix but, having demonstrated to myself that I can manage not to lose that pen, I decided it was time to upgrade.

Yesterday lunchtime, I popped down to Pens Plus in Oxford. Prices in there go up and up but they have some fairly inexpensive Lamy pens that I’ve heard good things about (I’d considered getting another pen like the Parker one I use for sketching but those have apparently been discontinued for some time).

When the case came out with the two cheapest Lamy models, I picked up the plastic ‘Safari’ first but recoiled quickly. Nice look but not such a pleasant feel. However, the aluminium bodied AL-Star felt much better – large enough for a good grip but surprisingly light. I picked out what I thought was a copper colour but I think is officially described as bronze and that’s the one I took back to the office.

After inserting the cartridge, straight away it was flowing freely. I might return to this in a few months to see if it is lasting better than the cheap model but, for now, I’m satisfied.

Wednesday 19 June 2019
by Wulf

Did Aristotle have a cell phone?

Yesterday afternoon I attended the Strachey Lecture, a termly series in the University of Oxford’s Computer Science department. The speaker was Professor Leslie Valiant, a distinguished figure in the field, and his subject was “Can one Define Intelligence as a Computational Phenomenon?”.

To be fair, a good deal went over my head but I could grasp one of the questions posed: did Aristotle have a cell phone? That probably seems fairly easy to answer but, in a talk around aspects of artificial intelligence, it pays to consider the deeper question that lies behind it: how did you get to your answer?

I think the answer is no, because Aristotle lived millennia ago and cell phones have been invented in my lifetime. What I’m not doing is drawing on a vast database of all cell phone subscribers. Instead, I’m instinctively jumping into time comparisons because Aristotle makes me think ‘ancient’ and cell phones make me think ‘modern’. I’m also making the assumption that Aristotle is the Ancient Greek philosopher and not a modern person, because he was quoted a few slides earlier.

If you have a strong reason for thinking the answer is yes, meet me twenty years ago and tell me about your time machine….

Monday 17 June 2019
by Wulf

Exceeding Expectations

We hadn’t expected quite so many people as we got at last night’s Blues Service. I think the average ‘evening gig’ at Holy Trinity is fairly small but apparently there were almost 70 there. Clearly gospel blues has a bit of a draw.