Wulf's Webden

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Sunday 24 September 2017
by Wulf
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Playlists

I have recently been enthusiastically creating music playlists… only 10-15 years late to the game. The truth is that I normally listen to my digital music collection from a computer – making it easy to pick and order the songs I want, when I want – and I still tend to listen by album. I used to enjoy making mixtapes but that was a long time ago, back in the day when cassette tape was king.

The reason for my belated enthusiasm is that the new car doesn’t have a CD player but it does have a USB slot and a big touchscreen display. It is great for seeing what is playing but actually picking tracks is a bit fiddly while driving. In consequence, I’m finally at the point where it makes sense for me to bundle up larger collections around genres and moods so I can just pick one at the start of a journey and put it on shuffle.

The next challenge, which might involve a bit of programming, is how to manage those lists longer term as I shuffle music on and off the USB stick. Which artists aren’t in any of the playlists? Which playlists have missing tracks? For now though, let the music roll…

Saturday 23 September 2017
by Wulf
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Down That Road

There are many fascinating places on the east side of Oxford but, for me, the must-see location to show visitors is the Cowley Road. In the stretch from town up to about the City Arms pub it reminds me of the colour and cultural diversity of London but compressed so each few steps takes you through what would be another district in the big city. You can visit it on Google Streetview but I have discovered another site that not only lets you see a snapshot of how it looks now but to read about each shop down the road and its history.

Visit Cowley Road and find out more.

Friday 22 September 2017
by Wulf
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Slug-a-bed

I was surprised to see slug-a-bed (someone who likes a lie-in) on a list of “lost” English words that the BBC reported on a few days ago. That’s one I know, sometimes use and try not to exemplify too much!

Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in tracking down the full list – the first few pages of Google results are swamped with references to the list from a range of media sites but I didn’t find any that went back to the original source. However, I did discover The Phrontistery, another online source for obscure and archaic words, so do venustate your vocabulary with that.

Thursday 21 September 2017
by Wulf
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Saccadic patterns

While doing some background reading on Franck’s seeing/drawing books, I came across an interesting article by Paul Foxton called
The Truth about Seeing – And Why it Makes Drawing so Hard. This proposes that the way the eye is trained to move in blind drawing (or ‘blind contour drawing’, another term for the same thing) is contrary to the way the eye naturally skips over a scene, focusing on points of interest. This movement is known by a French term, saccade, and his site provides some illustrations of this from eye-tracking studies.

He acknowledges that the blind drawings have a pleasing “vibrant quality” but isn’t optimal for accuracy. I think I’d happily concede that point; most of the time, I’m happy to be drawing for the experience of observing and the potential for creating marks that I might share or use to inspire further creativity.

Wednesday 20 September 2017
by Wulf
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Seeing/Drawing

I recently re-read a trio of books by artist Frederick Franck on the topic of drawing as a meditative, spiritual activity: The Zen of Seeing, The Awakened Eye and Art as a Way. I first read them when I was studying art as part of my A-Levels but I seized the chance to return to them after returning to blind drawing at the Oxford Summer School. Franck recommends looking at a subject, then closing your eyes for a few minutes before opening them and putting pen to paper as part of an intensely observational approach to drawing.

They aren’t method books; alongside a little bit of how, there is a lot of why. They are full of references to spirituality, particularly Zen Buddhism (although Jesus gets a few quotes) and produced from hand written rather than typeset pages; however, even if either of those things throw up stumbling blocks, they also have ample drawings to illustrate them. The real thrust of the book is to encourage people to risk being enriched by the experience and actively seeing what is around them.

Tuesday 19 September 2017
by Wulf
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After You’ve Been There

I recently read Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island. More accurately, I re-read it. I couldn’t recall for sure when I picked it up in the library but, once I’d got a few pages in, I was sure that I’d journeyed through those pages before. It must have been somewhere between the original publication date (1995) and when I started assiduously recording all my reading on LibraryThing (19 January 2006 if you want a precise date), as it didn’t pop up as a duplicate entry.

What has changed between the lost date of my first reading and now is that I have visited a lot more of the places Bryson describes, which adds an extra dimension. For example, I’ve lived in Oxford for the best part of a decade. Bryson marks it down a tad unfairly, ostensibly because of the rash of modern buildings across the area and probably also because Oxford doesn’t need another person gushing about how beautiful it is. However, I can now read his litany of streets and each one is entwined with memories of my own experiences of those places. Travel reading is savoured differently before you’ve been to a place and after you’ve been there.

Oh, and I can only imagine how he would fulminate against the new Westgate Centre, which is nearing completion and due to be opened for the end of year rush. It has a Cotswold stone facade on the front which wouldn’t look out of place in Witney while the mixed brick stylings of the sides and rear almost leave me pining for the previous excrescence!

Monday 18 September 2017
by Wulf
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A Twist of Glass

Here is another photo for my 52photos project:

Clear, blue and pink glass, twisted together

A Twist of Glass

I took this close-up of a glass candleholder on the windowsill while getting set for last week’s photo of a Herald moth and have applied very similar post-processing to bring out the colours (which happen to be the ones used in the Flickr site where I publish my photos).