Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting by Ian Roberts

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on August 13, 2016 @ 8:00 am

Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting by Ian Roberts

This is a wonderful book for learning composition. I felt that Ian Roberts broke the concepts down and explained them well. He discusses different compositional forms with examples and explains whey they work.

There are a lot of examples from his own work, discussing why it works and what some subtle changes could do to it.

The book includes a dvd. The technical quality of the DVD is poor, I had to turn the sound on my tv almost to maximum to hear it adequately, and the dvd buzzed in the player.

But after that, the content was excellent. He showed most of the pictures in the book, and showed them with alterations while discussing what these alterations do to the eye movement. Then he goes through the same video again without the voice so you can see and feel the effects yourself. The dvd is an excellent addition to the book.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on June 6, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

Seveneves  by Neal Stephenson

This is a disaster book, about the destruction and rebirth of the Earth. In this story, the Moon breaks up from an unknown cause, the parts continue to fracture and fall onto the Earth until the Earth is deluged by fragment impacts causing the atmosphere to heat up and much of the surface to become molten.

The book is in three parts. In the first, the disaster is looming and people are trying to prepare for survival of the race or preparing for their own end. The second part sees the destruction of the Earth, the numbers in space are dwindling in their effort to survive both natural disasters and each other. The final part is the re-terraforming and resettlement of Earth, discovery of people who sheltered themselves on the Earth, and new political struggles.

Seeing the impending doom, humanity unites and elects to send select people into space, each country is to select two candidates to send. There is some conflict, and there are extreme reactions to them, but thing generally go too smoothly.

In space there is a lot of struggling to survive. The science is good, and the reader will pick up some basic orbital mechanics and physics on the way. One billionaire manages to ride his own rocket into space. But rather than a burden, he flies out to collect a comet for fuel – and meets his own disaster when the reactor that fuels his ship leaks. One politician resembling Hillary Clinton, uses her influence to get into space, then turns the space colonies into a political battleground. I found her character to be foolish and unlikable, I admit that don’t care for real politics in my fiction. She is one of the last surviving women, the seven Eves, who are to repopulate the human race. Without surviving men, they use parthenogenesis to repopulate and ‘improve’ their progeny. Each Eve is permitted one improvement in her offspring.

The third part of the book involves finding survivors on the Earth’s surface. The world has already been terraformed. We learn that each of the eves have created seven races of humans, with both physical and mental differences. Their differences reflect the personality of the Eve that sired their race.

Conflict comes when they encounter the survivors, who claim the surface of the world as their domain. These people lived deep in caves with massive provisions to get them through the apocalypse. Politics leads to battle and eventually compromise. You see the beginnings of politics as normal in all their relationships.

I had a number of issues with the story. Early in the book, it seemed people were too accepting of their fates. You didn’t see people becoming extremely religious, no survivalists, no people looting to get the most they can for their personal last days. They may have been unimportant to the story, but it seems like it should have been mentioned. There was only one instance of resistance to the policy of getting people into space, even that required an organized nation to mount. This just isn’t my view of a world-wide disaster that has no hope of survival.

Other issues such as, people who have lived in space for 5000 years have no problems adapting to gravity, when our astronauts have trouble after a matter of months. Would they even be interested in going someplace they’ve never been?

People who lived underground had no problems adapting to the sunlight. They had lighting, but it wouldn’t be close to the same. I suspect they would have lowered the lighting levels over time as they continued to adapt.

Generally, the third part of the book felt like a different book from the first two. It had too much content that was nothing more than descriptions of neat new technologies. a little of it was valuable to the story later on, but I glossed over most of it. The book is already too long for its value, taking most of this out would have helped.

I also have to wonder why the seven races didn’t interbreed. With the enlarged gene pool, it would have enhanced humanity and brought the genetic advantages to all humans. But it wouldn’t have made as interesting of a story.

The ‘white sky’ should have been darker, more eclipse-like as small fragments cast massive shadows over the earth similar to the rings of Saturn. I don’t see a couple of years being sufficient to have fragments in polar orbits, so the sky coverage wouldn’t have been complete. This would have made the poles have glowing arcs around them at night.

The books name refers to the fact that there are seven women, or Eves, that plan to repopulate the human race. It is also a palindrome, which made me think about the destruction and rebirth of the Earth and of the human population. The seven Eves being the pivotal point and the low point of the population.

Overall, the books is enjoyable. It is one of the more interesting disaster books that I’ve read, but I can’t recommend it that highly due to the issues I’ve raised.

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

Filed under:History,Sports — posted by Randolph on June 1, 2016 @ 7:29 am

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh

In this book, a couple of baseball podcasters with just a little management experience between them get the opportunity to manage a baseball team by the numbers. They offer to manage the team using statistics, similar to those used in the major leagues. The get the opportunity in a very minor league in Sanoma, California, the Sanoma Stompers.

In the course of their adventures, they learn that statistics aren’t everything. They get resistance from players and other managers who don’t want rules from outsiders. They learn about the politics of baseball, and that some things are more important than the statistics.

At times the books is outright funny, it is insightful, and you can learn a lot about the inside activities of baseball. It is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in the sport.

The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals by Hannah B. Harvey

Filed under:self-help — posted by Randolph on May 16, 2016 @ 7:38 pm

The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals by Hannah B. Harvey

This lecture covers all aspects of storytelling, such as forming the story, connecting with the audience, the relationship between narrator-audience-storyteller, using the voice, using gestures, preparation, props, character development, and on and on. It seems almost too much, as few topics are covered in much depth, but it is a great introduction to all the material.

The material has a lot of examples. At times, Hannah references gestures or posture – or something in the video. She does acknowledge that this is the CD version and provides some additional information, there are not too many of these instances.

She is a good storyteller, the voice is clear and easily understood, the audio quality is good. There is a lot of information covering many aspects of storytelling and presentation.

The Long Road Home by G. B. Trudeau

Filed under:Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on April 3, 2016 @ 7:23 am

The Long Road Home by G. B. Trudeau

This is a collection of cartoons relating to B.D.s recovery from an RPG attack near Fallujah. It deals with recovery issues and the loss of a limb. It also tells the story of Fisher House, a recovery house for wounded vets. It not only addresses B.D’s and Boopsie’s recovery, but addresses some of their friends. But Trudeau keeps it light, there is a suggestion we might find out what his initials stand for, and Zonker can keep any subject light.

This collection keeps its distance from politics and the stronger political characters don’t make an appearance. The book really focusses on the recovery issues without any distracting side-stories.

Ochoco Reach by Jim Stewart

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on March 20, 2016 @ 8:46 am

Ochoco Reach by Jim Stewart

This is Jim Stewart’s first book, and he is establishing himself among the big names in mystery novels. This novel is in the style of John D. MacDonald with a special forces-trained and capable hero, Mike Ironwood, who has a PI office in Portland, Oregon. Mike has a half-brother, Daniel, who is more spiritual and half Nez Pierce. Daniel, who was trained as a Navy Seal, provides some support.

Here, a green-eyed woman, Willimina Hayes, who has a ranch near Prineville. Someone seems to be trying to gain control of her ranch, by hook or by crook. She came to Mike just to get some answers.

In an adventure taking Mike into Mexico to deal with a drug cartel and a rogue DEA agent, there is a good mixture of suspense and action with a few surprises thrown in.

The book has interesting characters and is well-paced. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Landscape Painting Essentials by Johannes Vloothuis

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 9, 2016 @ 10:25 am

Landscape Painting Essentials by Johannes Vloothuis

The author has studied many paintings to gather what he believes are the essential rules of composition. He presents these as simple rules and provides examples of their use. He also has several step-by-step painting examples that expand on the compositional instruction he’s providing.

The book is composed of seven chapters which collect different concepts based on the chapter heading. These include (roughly) how we see, abstract shapes, color theory, movement, simplify, shape repetition and depth. The top of each page is further color coded to help finding sections of the book.

Overall, the book is excellent. It is easy to read. The examples really help teach the subject and make the concepts stick, I feel just reading this book will improve my composition in both plein aire and working from reference material. I believe a second reading will help even further.

Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on February 22, 2016 @ 6:26 am

Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon

In the months leading up to 9/11, an agent is killed in a targeted shooting. The story is about tracking down his killer. The main character, Paul Patterson, is a middle-aged agent in the CIA. He is tracking down the killer in a methodical, research-oriented process. There is very little action in the story, it is more about the CIA and how it operates. As you meet each character, you get a dossier on him. There were too many for me to remember.

The book wasn’t able to make me care much for the murder victim, nor the main character. It wasn’t bad, but I wanted more.

Barefoot Walking by Michael Sandler

Filed under:health and fitness,self-help — posted by Randolph on February 10, 2016 @ 11:11 am

Barefoot Walking by Michael Sandler

I was sorely disappointed in this book. Having foot problems, I was hoping for some insights and guidance. The author’s lack of scientific statistical understanding left me wondering what else he might not understand.

For instance, he repeatedly, through anecdote, discusses the advantage of barefoot walking over a sedentary lifestyle. However, he never shows that going barefoot is better than wearing shoes.

He also seems to believe that the ground in electronic devices means there is a wire the is connected to the earth.

The book is more spiritual than it is a solid medical guide. He has some good motivational text and a lot of advice. A lot of this can be validated though other sources. But given the weak buildup of his arguments, I wouldn’t have faith in his advice without backing it up in other sources. So not using this text seems to be a reasonable approach.

If you want the motivation or enjoy the spiritual aspects of the book, it may provide some value for you.

The Constant Art of Being a Writer: The Life, Art and Business of Fiction by N. M. Kelby

Filed under:Art,Writing — posted by Randolph on February 9, 2016 @ 11:09 am

The Constant Art of Being a Writer: The Life, Art and Business of Fiction by N. M. Kelby

The author, N. M. Kelby, has experience both as a publisher and an author, she is providing her insights and experience to the novice author. This book give the reader a solid foundation of, what I presume are, all the steps toward publishing and selling a book.

The book starts with developing discipline, good writing habits and finding support. It continues through writing, editing, finding an agent, finding a publisher or self-publishing, selling, touring, and even estate planning. If you haven’t actually published a book, this will help you work through steps you haven’t even considered.

The book is an easy read and well-organized. It takes you though the steps pretty much in order of how you will encounter them with lots of advice and tips on the way. She provides lots of URLs for online support, both in writing and editing groups, to authors’ anecdotes of bad experiences.

Even for the non-author, it is interesting and will give you a real appreciation for what these guys go through.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace