Happy New Year

Happy New Year from the frigid wastelands of Boston’s South Shore.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to learn to play the Brahms Intermezzo Opus 117 No 1. Here is Glenn Gould’s version:

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New arrival

This will slow down my writing:

I used to play the piano a lot growing up, but finally ran out of time for it when the kids arrived. They took lessons for a while but were never especially interested, so the old piano (which had been in the family since I was a kid and had seen better days) went to piano heaven.

I got to be pretty good in high school, but I never had the drive to get any further than pretty good. Now, we’ll see.

The music in the photo is the Arietta from Beethoven’s Opus 111 piano sonata. I am showing off–I can’t play the thing. Yet. Or maybe ever–it offers technical challenges that my fingers may not be up to.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a quick plug for my novel Summitin which I get to imagine what it’s like to be a brilliant (and eccentric) classical pianist, in the mold of Glenn Gould.

538’s analysis of “Love, Actually”

I realize that many of you rely on me for my annual insights into Love, Actually, the Christmas film that has ruined so many lives. This year I just wanted to point folks to 538’s “definitive analysis” of what it calls “the greatest Christmas movie of all time”. (This appeared last year, and maybe they didn’t have time to include Bad Santa 2 in their thinking.)

The first part of the article is standard statistical analysis of the actors–whose movies have made the most money since Love, Actually (Liam Neeson) and whose movies have the highest IMDB rating (Alan Rickman).

The authors then do a “network analysis” of the movie. It looks like this:

And they analyze how much time characters spend talking to other characters. The authors’ conclusion: Laura Linney’s character is the linchpin of the movie.

Linney’s character is the one that truly straddles the two Londons. In a movie stuffed with redundant plots and permutations of the same stereotypes, there’s no character quite like her. If you find yourself forced to Grinch through a viewing of “Love Actually” this holiday season, treasure Laura Linney — she’s a bona fide Christmas miracle.

Good lord. There are many reason to watch (parts of) Love, Actually. The simpering Laura Linney character is not one of them. Statistical analysis does not always lead to aesthetic insight.

I will report back later on Bad Santa 2, which we’ve been saving up for this holiday season.

The Bowker Collection of Money

Less than a mile away from the Vermeer exhibit, in the Numismatics Room of the Museum of American History, we find the Bowker collection of money:

I have no idea who this particular Bowker is, but it’s good to know that at least one of us managed to collect some money.

Downstairs from the Numismatics Room is the ultimate reason to visit Washington D.C. (for some of us, anyway): Julia Child’s kitchen:

Bon appétit!

Vermeer life list

I got to see the the Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery of Art  in Washington D.C. last week. It wasn’t bad, although it was too crowded and there was a certain sameness to the paintings — on purpose. Here we see a bunch of paintings of women looking into mirrors; here we see a bunch of women writing letters… everyone is influencing everyone else. I preferred the more diverse Dutch exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts a couple of years ago.

But in any event I got to introduce myself to a few more Vermeers. There are only 34 paintings firmly attributed to Vermeer, and I’ve now seen over half of them (including the one stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum that is currently buried in some aging mobster’s shed or something). Good for me! To see the rest of them I’ll have to go to the Netherlands, Germany, and Scotland, or hope for another blockbuster touring exhibit or two.

My family isn’t as enamored of Vermeer as I am. But to me there’s something different about Vermeer compared to the other Dutch artists in the exhibit — the light! The enigmatic scenes! I could stare at them forever.

For example, what does this young lady have on her mind?

And why is that dark curtain there on the left side of this painting, as if we’re seeing a scene from a play?

And look at the deep perspective of this painting — why does Vermeer distance us from this scene?

And finally, what is this woman doing with this balance?

Wikipedia tells us:

According to Robert Huerta in Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal (2005), the image has been variously “interpreted as a vanitas painting, as a representation of divine truth or justice, as a religious meditative aid, and as an incitement to lead a balanced, thoughtful life.” Some viewers have imagined the woman is weighing her valuables, while others compare her actions to Christ’s, reading parable into the pearls. Some art critics, including John Michael Montias who describes her as “symbolically weighing unborn souls”, have seen the woman as a figure of Mary.[To some critics who perceive her as measuring her valuables, the juxtaposition with the final judgment suggests that the woman should be focusing on the treasures of Heaven rather than those of Earth. In this perspective, the mirror on the wall may reinforce the vanity of her pursuits.

Well, that certainly clears things up.

Cutting

I’m about a quarter of the way through the rewrite of my novel. My goal has been to shorten it. I’m proud to say that, so far, I have shortened it by approximately zero percent. Appreciate the congrats!

I have managed to tighten a lot of the existing chapters. But it appears that I’m required to write an additional subplot. So that isn’t helping. I think I may be stuck at around 123,000 words. Still seems like too many to me.

Also, I’ve changed the title. But maybe I need to change it again.

All in all, things are going well.

Sex clams and other editorial problems

Sometimes the lack of copy-editing is pretty obvious, as in the soon-to-be-legendary “sex clams” headline:

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Here’s a subtler problem, buried in the Boston Globe sport section:

The compensation committee comprises of Robert Kraft, John Mara, Art Rooney, Clark Hunt, Bob McNair, and Blank.

“Comprises of”? The writer seems to be aware that the correct usage of comprise is tricky, but doesn’t have a clue how to get it right. (Ditch the “of” and the sentence is fine.) Following journalists on Twitter is a good way to just how much they need editors; yesterday I saw one of them use the word dependant, which even WordPress tells me isn’t spelled correctly.

Of course, none of these are as funny as this headline’s missing hyphen in “first hand”:

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