Another thought that struck me about the kendo class on Friday is that I now feel a lot more inclined to learn than I used to. This is mainly on account of meeting people in the dojo whom I have had actual conversations with both about kendo and other interests. Before, the people I have spoken to were mostly being polite, making conversation to fill in time, or didn't want to talk at all. Essentially, I felt like I was on a different wavelength from everyone else there. This left me with a sense that I was alone–although part of the class and being taught with everyone else, I didn't really feel included, and so had less of an incentive to pursue the lessons.
It's also interesting to note that the new kihon-waza
drills are just that. The All Japan Kendo Federation only officially adopted them in 2005. It is most likely for that reason that the teaching methods concerning these drills have slowly been improving since last year as the sensei and sempai discover how best to integrate them into training. I never thought about this before, but this could actually be considered a fairly radical change in something that has been around for several hundred years.
Bokuto ni yoru kihon-waza keiko-ho mnemonic:
is right, the entrance to the gallery from Queens Street is indeed an impressive sight.
As I've said before, portraits aren't really my thing, but as I've also said, my last experience with the Edinburgh galleries happened a long time ago, and my perception of the world has changed a lot in that time. For the most part, I did enjoy the visit.
To decide what I was going to get out of the gallery, I had to ask myself what portraits are for. They are glimpses into the past, albeit through a heavy filter of perception. An opportunity to look eye-to-eye with someone significant and often long dead, through the eyes of another. A portrait, done properly, speaks volumes about the person depicted, the way that person perceives themselves and the way that person is viewed by the artist and the world at large.
There is no matter of fact recording of events. Certainly, the way in which the subject is posed and dressed, the items they choose to associate with are all elements from the real world brought into the image, however even these can be artifacts of the creative process, especially in the case of posthumous depictions. In one example, a painting of a Labour MP from the 1920s, whose image I found noble and haunting, the Glasgow canal in the background was an addition requested by the artist to honour his close association with the area.
I found that I enjoyed the 20th century portraits the most, in part because of the freer experimentation with styles and materials. I felt that the greatest significance of this section was the way in which it offered an alternative view of a familiar world in an era so dominated by the rigidity of photographic depiction of life. It is the people that make this world, and the recording of one person purely through the labour of another offers an insight into those people in a way that neither the camera nor the written word can achieve.
The Victorian gallery could be viewed similarly. It told a lot of the era, and the heroes of that time. Of the rise of the savant class, and of the role played by royalty and empire. It's dangerous to view the gallery as a crystalline historical documentation, but as a window into the past, specifically the minds of a people past, it is an invaluable experience.
It was in this light that I viewed the Scottish history gallery. Placed in chronological order, the paintings here depict significant figures in the period of Scottish history from the battle for independence through to the Act of Union. The greatest impression I got from this was of an age of utmost reverence. Portraits here serve the subject above all else, as an instrument of vanity and propaganda. While this will always be true, in this age of our history more than any since, the paintings served as weapons in a war of opinion.
It is perhaps because of this that I enjoyed this section least. Of course, it is important history that is depicted, but here more than anywhere else in the gallery, the subject will be most guarding of their flaws and most eager to project an image as above themselves as they could. Consequently, there is little room for artistry that does not serve this goal and little variance in style over what is a significant period of time.
I have to add, lunch in the gallery cafe was fantastic. I may well have to visit again if I'm in the area around noon.
I showed up at the Wellington Statue at two pm. No sign of the PSC stall anywhere. After ten minutes of waiting, I received a phonecall from a friend who needed help finding the roleplaying shop from where I got my funny dice. This being preferable to standing around doing nothing, I helped him out.
That task done, I headed to the cinema where I watched Inside Man
There is a rare breed of film that sets out to be purely entertaining, where the filmmakers believe in this goal, leave their baggage at the door and accomplish the task in a way that leaves the audience feeling satisfied and not in the least bit guilty that they enjoyed themselves. No prizes for guessing that Inside Man is one of these films. Gerwitz intricate plotting and Lee's flawless timing and oversight put all the right elements in place for what unfolds.
Cinematic slight of hand is the order of the day, as pages in the story turn revealing just enough clues to let us guess at what will transpire without being certain that our answer will be correct. Inside Man
wants us to guess, and the cast of players in its bank heist tale play along with us. The trio of commanding screen presences, each charismatic and likable in their own way do battle through wit and guile. It's impressive that such such suspense and intrigue is created in a structure with no real bad guy.
Denzel Washington as the detective, who works with the audience to delve behind what at first seems like a straight forward hostage situation, is the one who we spend most of our time cheering for. But it's hard not to find admiration for Clive Owen's bank robber who executes the perfect crime with icy calm and steady nerve. Our admiration only grows as the full extent of his planning becomes apparent. Even the sly fixer, played with impeccable suave by Foster, who at first seems like our enemy, eventually comes to earn our respect. As she wisely informs the detective, she didn't get where she did by making enemies.
It's entertainment, not high art, but as entertainment the film sits among a small vanguard of similar recent titles that have provided us with an evening of entertainment that we didn't feel the need to question. This is a film that believes in itself and delivers accordingly.
For tea, I made myself a stirfry of tehina and broccoli, according to a recipe
I found on E2. The last time I tried this, it didn't turn out quite right, but for whatever reason, it tasted delicious this time round. I may well be ready to subject others to this particular piece of culinary experimentation. This was followed by cheese and oatcakes, which I will have to do more often, and plenty of whisky. (Freshly opened bottles of Macallen 10 and Highland Park 12.) Not a bad evening in.
Not a lot happened today by contrast. Chris
and I went to GEAS at two, but none of the games happened to be running. Most likely, I think, on account of the current exam season at the University. I introduced Chris to the curries served at the Mosque's kitchen, and we had a good wonder around the city, stopping off at Games Workshop. A bunch of emos on Cockburn Street mistook Chris's girlfriend for a private school on account of her work uniform. This resulted in plenty of laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. At Chris's persuasion, I bought some produce from the cheesemonger on Victoria Road, which I shall save for later in the week.
To be honest, I don't mind that all we really did was wander about, because that's what the weather lent itself to today.
According to someone at work, the world ends tonight. I'll be at Neon celebrating.