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Travellers among Mountains: the Six Masters of the Early Qing

Posted: 25 Feb 2018 04:30 AM PST

Yesterday, I commemorated the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of one of the Six Masters of the early Qing period in China: Wú Lì, promising today to show the work of the other five.

Wáng Shímǐn 王時敏 王时敏 (1592-1680) was one of Wú Lì’s Masters, and the oldest of the six. He originally worked as a government official, but fell ill in 1630 during a visit to Nanking. He then devoted himself full-time to his art. His grandson was Wáng Yuánqí, another of the Six Masters.

Wang Shimin 王時敏 (1592-1680), untitled lead from album of 12 leaves illustrating Du Fu’s poems (1666), ink and colour on paper, 39 x 25.5 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

This painting by Wáng Shímǐn is an untitled leaf from an album of twelve leaves in which he illustrated poems by Du Fu, from 1666.

Wang Shimin 王時敏 (1592-1680), after Wang Wei’s ‘Snow Over Rivers and Mountains’ (1668), colour on paper scroll, 133.7 × 60 cm, National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院, Taipei, Taiwan. Wikimedia Commons.

In this, Wáng Shímǐn has painted after Wang Wei’s Snow Over Rivers and Mountains (1668).

Wang Shimin 王時敏 (1592-1680), 仿古山水圖 Landscapes after Old Masters (1674-77), ink and colour on paper, 25.4 x 33 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

In 1674, Wáng Huī painted an album of twelve paintings for his Master Wáng Shímǐn, who three years later responded in his own album, which included this painting. By this time, Wáng Shímǐn had grown old, and his ageing eyesight led to a broader style. Since then, individual leaves from those two albums, by Master and pupil, have become lost, and a single composite was created, in which there are ten surviving paintings by Wáng Huī, and two by Wáng Shímǐn.

Wang Shimin 王時敏 (1592-1680), untitled folding fan mounted as an album leaf (1677), ink and color on paper, 15.7 x 49.5 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

This untitled folding fan was painted by Wáng Shímǐn in 1677.

Wáng Jiàn 王鑒 王鉴 (1598-1677) was the second of Wú Lì’s Masters, and the other of the Six Masters from the first generation. I have been unable to find any usable images of his work.

Wáng Huī 王翬 王翚 (1632–1717) was from the next generation, which included Wú Lì, with whom he shared a Master, Wáng Shímǐn.

Wang Hui 王翬 (1632–1717), The Southern Journey of Emperor Kangxi (detail) (1691-98), colour on silk scroll, Palace Museum 故宫博物院, Beijing, China. Wikimedia Commons.

This detail from Wáng Huī’s The Southern Journey of Emperor Kangxi shows one of his populated landscapes, and was painted between 1691-98.

Wang Hui 王翬 (1632–1717), 等 康熙南巡圖 (卷三: 濟南至泰山)The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern_Inspection Tour, Scroll Three – Ji’nan to Mount Tai (1698), ink and colour on silk scroll, 67.9 x 1393.8 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

The third of a series of scrolls showing The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, this shows the section from Ji’nan to Mount Tai, and was completed in 1698.

Wang Hui 王翬 (1632–1717), A Dream Journey to the Mountains and Rivers (1702), ink on paper scroll, 24.2 x 379 cm, Hong Kong Museum of Art 香港藝術館, Hong Kong. Wikimedia Commons.

Wáng Huī’s Dream Journey to the Mountains and Rivers is one of his later paintings, from 1702.

Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (1633–1690) was originally a landscape painter, but when he saw the art of Wáng Huī, he felt that his paintings could only be second best to those. He then changed direction, and became one of the great flower painters of China. He founded the Ch’ang-chou school of painting.

Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (1633–1690), 牡丹 Peonies (date not known), ink and colour on paper, 28.5 × 43.1 cm, National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院, Taipei, Taiwan. Wikimedia Commons.

His undated Peonies is a good example of his bold use of colour, and the high botanical quality of his work.

Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (1633–1690), Sunset Along the Floral Embankment (1671), media and dimensions not known, Kyoto National Museum, Japan.

Yun Shouping’s later Sunset Along the Floral Embankment from 1671 shows a compromise between the floral and landscape.

Wáng Yuánqí 王原祁 (1642–1715) was taught to paint by his grandfather, Wáng Shímǐn. He became a court official to the Qing Emperor Kangxi, whose responsibilities included curation of the imperial collection.

Wang Yuanqi 王原祁 (1642–1715), Free Spirits Among Streams and Mountains (detail) (1684), ink on paper scroll, 33 x 710.9 cm, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Wikimedia Commons.

Two details (above and below) from Wáng Yuánqí’s long handscroll of Free Spirits Among Streams and Mountains, painted in 1684, show an immature style influenced strongly by his Master Wáng Shímǐn and Huang Gongwang.

Wang Yuanqi 王原祁 (1642–1715), Free Spirits Among Streams and Mountains (detail) (1684), ink on paper scroll, 33 x 710.9 cm, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Wikimedia Commons.
Wang Yuanqi 王原祁 (1642–1715), The Fuchun Mountains (1699), ink on paper, 33.8 x 393.7 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. Wikimedia Commons.

Wáng Yuánqí’s The Fuchun Mountains from 1699 is more typical of his mature style, and strongly influenced by Huang Gongwang’s great handscroll of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains of 1350.

I hope that this quick dip into paintings from the early Qing dynasty has provided better context for the previous article on Wú Lì, and perhaps encouraged you to look afresh at these neglected artists.

Last Week on My Mac: Trusting management

Posted: 25 Feb 2018 12:00 AM PST

It’s only human to want to think that you’re in control – at least some of the time. We know that control is often transient and tenuous, and frequently illusory, but it’s comforting nonetheless.

Over the last week, I have been looking progressively deeper into the system within macOS which manages versions. Like so much of what we use on a daily basis, we take it for granted, and don’t worry too much about what’s going on below the surface. In this case, Apple has done an excellent job of hiding the nuts and bolts, and delivering something that just works, to the point where many users aren’t even conscious of what is going on.

By a fortuitous coincidence, while I have been looking at version management, I have been working on a hefty Keynote presentation. Originally 1.5 GB, as the result of several embedded movies, I have been revising and revamping it for a talk that I’m giving on Monday evening. As I was editing it into its new form, I couldn’t help but notice my free disk space rapidly diminishing.

I was fortunate in working on my desktop system, which started off with a smidgin under 1 TB free space on its Fusion Drive. Each time that I, or Keynote, saved the presentation, macOS was writing another gigabyte or so into its hidden version database. As the minutes went past, my free disk space was falling in front of my eyes. Had I been using my MacBook Air with its 480 GB SSD, this would have been considerably more worrying.

The knowledgeable Mac user could, of course, have kept clearing out old versions using the Version Browser in Keynote. With its zingy Time-Machine-like interface, the first time that you do that is quite exciting. But to have to keep removing old versions is disruptive: it breaks your working rhythm and concentration.

Features like the versioning system are great assets, but they make management of your Mac’s limited resources very difficult.

In theory, with APFS in High Sierra, multiple versions of large bundles like this should be stored far more efficiently, but they’re also even more opaque to the user and system administrator. If that presentation had been stored on a shared file server, its drives being formatted in APFS, would each of the unchanged component files link to the same extents on the drives, so taking no more space? If they did, and I made a small change to one of the larger video clips, would that share unmodified blocks as a clone, or would it require a complete new copy of the video clip?

Combine macOS version management with APFS file cloning and you have a potentially very efficient system which could make the best use of storage space, but becomes highly unpredictable. Much depends on deep insight into the behaviour of these systems, which Apple doesn’t give us.

Despite being almost seven years old, the version management system built into macOS is almost undocumented. Its only substantive documentation is that provided to developers to enable their apps to use it, which doesn’t describe how it works. There is nothing to explain properly to users or system administrators topics such as how and when macOS decides to purge old versions, or how the user can force it to purge them, other than using its increasingly opaque Version Browser.

APFS has been in use across millions of iOS devices for eleven months now, and the default boot file system for every Mac with an internal SSD for five months, yet it too remains undocumented apart from a short conceptual introduction. The only way to discover how it behaves is to experiment, but in the absence of third-party tools, we have to rely on the few that Apple provides. Third-parties find it very hard to develop those tools because they too need the documentation which is so conspicuously absent.

This isn’t another rant about documentation, though. What struck me most, and deepest, about trying to get the best out of version management is Apple’s sustained reluctance to give the user control. It’s the flip side of the ‘it just works’ concept, which actually means that ‘it just works the way that we want it to’.

Apple makes assumptions about our Macs and our work, in this case that we will always have ample free disk space on which to retain unlimited numbers of versions, or unlimited time and zeal to devote to maintaining those versions. In practice, I suspect, many of us have neither, and all we want is to regain control. We shouldn’t be wrangling in this way with macOS, nor should we be worrying about the privacy of our data hidden away in the versioning database.

Trust and confidence are best earned, not assumed.