Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Piper v. Pisanello!

John Piper
1903 - 1992


1395ish - 1455ish


Vote for the artist of your choice! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Géricault v. Lorenzetti!

OK, so Gaddi tied with Gericault and Longhi tied with Lorenzo Monaco.  Then, Gaddi walloped Longhi.  Does it follow that Géricault wallops Lorenzo Monaco?  

In this case, yes!  So, both of the gentlemen from the Gs advance, with Géricault jumping from page 3 to page 5 in the brackets.  Let's see how he does!

Théodore Géricault
1791 - 1824

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
1319 - 1348ish

Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Songs of the Fifty States: Missouri!

(What is "The Songs of the Fifty States"?)

The Running Avatar started 2015 in Eastern Colorado, crossed into Nebraska on the last day of January, and entered Kansas on the first day of February. Since then, it has been a long traverse across the rural immensities of the Sunflower State. Only yesterday, some 630 miles later, did my insubstantial alter ego cross State Line Road and find himself in Missouri. Not long after, he came trotting up to the entrance of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of the State of Missouri.  State Capital Building, Jefferson City.


Size: 180,533 km2 (21st)

2013 Population: 6,063,589 (18th)

Statehood: 1821 (24th).

American Human Development Index: 4.60 (36th)

Art Mecca: I didn't really know much about art until -- well, let's be honest.  I still don't really know much about art.

But I really, really didn't know much about art until I was around thirty.  Sometime around there, a friend -- I'm not sure which friend -- suggested we go to nearby Kansas City, Missouri, and visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I didn't really expect much, but since the central area of the United States is not exactly brimming over with tourist destinations, I gave it a go.  And I was enchanted.  

I remember two pieces especially well.  One was a big ol' MonetNow, keep in mind that I am by upbringing a village lad when I say that I boggled, really boggled, that I was in the same room with, not a reproduction, but an actual Monet!  Imagine me stretching the word "golly" over several seconds, and you won't be far off.  I stood on the other side of the room from it.  I got right up on top of it, sticking my face a couple of inches from it.  I was all, like, "so that's what impressionism is!  Golly!"  The other was an ivory carving of the Fall of the Rebel Angels, the intricacy of which amazed me, and amazes me still.

I thought that the Nelson Atkins must be the coolest museum in the world, and I suppose for me, at the time, it was.  I went back several times before I moved away from Kansas.  I wonder if I'd still love it now that I've seen a lot more museums, or if I'd be all jaded.

Michael 5000's Missouri

First Visited: April 1, 1991 (5th)
Most Recently Visited: August 30, 1999 (46th)

First Run In: n/a
Best Run: n/a

Have Admired the Visual Arts In: Yes.
Have Geohashed In: No.
Have Slept Overnight In: Yes.

Counties Visited: 56/115 (3rd)
% Complete: 48.7% (22nd)

Mrs. 5000's Counties Visited: 22/115 (15th)
% Complete: 19.1% (39th)
Mrs.5000 First Visited: Unknown
Mrs.5000 Most Recently Visited: Unknown

Atlas of All Roads Traveled

Plans and Aspirations

A side trip to Missouri in the foreseeable future is possible but not likely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Gaddi v. Hockney!

The upper left hand side of page three of the brackets has been a mess for a couple of years.  Today we resolve the old Gaddi/Gericault tie -- both of them survived their tiebreakers! -- but that won't really do much for us until the ancient tie from First Round Elimination #17 gets taken care of.  Someday!

In the meantime, it's Gaddi v. Hockney!

Taddeo Gaddi
c.1300 - 1366

David Hockney
Born 1937
British; works in United States

Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1170s

Hey, the 1170s were relatively easy to write a quiz about!  Maybe I've reached the tipping point! 

1. In late 1170, Henry II of England, in a fit of pique (or perhaps of plausible deniability), exclaimed "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?!?" What happened next?

2. He would popularize the Hindu–Arabic numeral system -- the one you know and love -- in Europe. That's actually a really big deal. He's better known for a particular string of numbers in which each is the sum of the previous two. But in 1170 he was just a beautiful baby boy. What was his name?

3. In 1171, Saladin abolished the Fatimid Caliphate, thus ending Shia rule in Egypt. Or to put it another way, thus restoring ________ rule in Egypt.

4. In 1172, Henry's son Richard became the Duke of Aquitaine. By what colorful nickname do we remember Richard these day?

5. In August 1173, construction began on a cathedral bell tower in Southern Europe. By 1178, famously, the project had run into a serious snag. What was the city, and what was the problem?

6. In around 1175, the Kingdom of Namayan reached its high point of power on this island. Name the island to impress us, but for full marks all we need is the modern country that the island is part of.

7. On May 29, 1176, the Battle of Legnano was fought between the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and the Lombard League. The Lombard victory ended the Empire's chances of expansion south of the Alps, preserved Papal authority, and planted the seeds for the emergence of modern Italy seven centuries later. In this key historical battle, about how many soldiers were put in the field by each army: 300? 3000? 30,000? 300,000? or 3,000,000?

8. On September 27, 1177, Pope Alexander III reportedly sent a letter to Prester John. The letter was never delivered. Why not?

9. On June 18, 1178, five monks in Canterbury were kind of freaked out:
A flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
Obviously, they were ignorant savages and had no way to make sense of what they saw. But a modern, educated person like yourself can immediately infer what must have happened. Right?

10. The historical record is a bit fuzzy, but some hold that in 1179 Hunac Ceel, leading the forces of Mayapan, sacked the most famous city of the lowland plain, permanently destroying its political and economic power. Its ruins are still a major tourist attraction, though. What was the name of this city?

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1160s

1. Games of thrones in Sweden.
2. The Onyx is the longest river in Antarctica.  Notoriously poor farming.
3. Temüjin was the wee little Genghis Khan.  We'll probably see more of him.
4. China is really hard to craft questions for.
5. Go Notre Dame!
6. The rich agricultural lands south of the Crusader States would be Egypt.
7. Stefan Namanja was a bigshot of medieval Serbia.
8. The bushi were the Samurai.
9. 1169 was the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.  It set off roughly eight and a half centuries that we call "the Troubles."
10. China is still really hard to craft questions for.

A fine trio of answers, led by DrSchnell.  If his unseemly gloating at winning three straight Monday Quizzes gets to be too much, though, you can throw the famous "1169 Anglo-Norman invasion of England" right in his teeth.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Piero di Cosimo v. Pietro da Cortona!

Piero di Cosimo
1461ish - 1521


Pietro da Cortona
1596 - 1669


Vote for the artist of your choice! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Friday, November 20, 2015

At the Movies: "The Asphalt Jungle"

At the Movies with Michael5000

The Asphalt Jungle
John Huston, 1950.

imbd: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% Fresh

The Asphalt Jungle is still talked about among movie fans for, well, a handful of reasons. It is apparently a fairly early entry in the heist genre, it’s thought to be a good example of film noir, it is a rare example from its era of a crime film that implicitly asks you to take the side of criminals, and it is the first significant appearance of Marilyn Monroe. Also, presumably people enjoy watching it.

Me, I wanted to watch it because I had learned that there is a character whose name is almost exactly the same as my father’s, with only a mere sibilant’s difference. This I had to see.

I like heist movies, but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by seeing too many of them that set out to out-heist Asphalt Jungle. In any event, and on the small screen, I was not as dazzled by the break-in sequence as I was led to believe I would be (by, among others, Kenneth Turan, who includes The Asphalt Jungle in his book Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film). As film noir… I don’t know. I can see how it conforms to some items on the film noir checklist, but it just didn’t feel very noir. Not to me. And as for the historical interest, suffice it to say that Marilyn Monroe’s part is pretty small, but long enough for her to seem pretty amateurish in it.

Did I enjoy watching it? Not especially. It felt like an “old movie,” in the mildly perjorative sense: showing its age, mildly amusing but without any particular distinction to recommend it from among our tens of thousands of other available choices.

Michael5000's imdb rating: 5.