Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Léger v. Monet!

Heavens, no sooner do we see our first results from the sixth page of the bracket sheet, then the whole thing is in chaos.  The Lawrence/Legar tiebreak match that topped the page was straightforward enough, actually, with Léger laying a fearsome beating on the British portraitist.  But then came Modigliani/Modersohn-Becker, a match which saw the two European contemporaries race to a draw in apathetic voter turnout that didn't even really muster a quorum.

Then came an abstract pair --- Moholy-Nagy and Mondrian -- and an abstract result: a six-six tie.  Your vote counts!

Finally, Claude Monet considerately gave Léger an opponent by crushing Henry Moore, who failed to garner a single vote.

For those who have never got around to memorizing the IAT rulebook, the upshot is that Modigliani, Modersohn-Becker, Moholy-Nagy, and Mondrian will reappear in the First Round a few months down the road.  Lawrence and Moore head to the Left Bracket.  And Léger and Monet face off starting right... now.

Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955

Tied with Frederic Leighton in his First Round debut, also in July 2014.
Shellacked Sir Thomas Lawrence in his second shot at Round 1.

Claude Monet
1840 - 1926

Skunked! Skunked Henry Moore in Round 1.

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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1100s

The eleventh century became the twelfth century, and things would never be the same again!  Of course, that's always true.

1. Its glory days as a prosperous center of trade in salt, gold, ivory, and slaves was still centuries in the future, but somewhere around 1100 a seasonal camp of Tuareg nomads became a permanent settlement. Today, it’s the best-known city in Mali.  What's it called?

2. In about 1100, probably in the south of France, the game of Alquerque was adapted to a new form that used backgammon pieces on a chessboard. This was the invention of what?

3. People from the Killke culture in highland Peru built this fortress, called Sacsayhuamán, in around 1100. A few centuries later, a city would grow nearby that would be the capital of a vast empire. What was the name of that city?

4. Properly called "Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress," it has housed many prisoners over the centuries. The first was Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham, who was imprisoned for a while by Henry I in 1100, more of less on charges of having been an effective tax administrator during the previous reign. What is the common name of this old and once-feared building?

5. On December 25, 1100, Baldwin of Boulogne was crowned as Baldwin I of a brand new kingdom that had just been created the previous year. Of what was Baldwin king?

Construction of the Arsenal began around 1104…. It became the largest industrial complex in Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution…. With high walls shielding the Arsenal from public view and guards protecting its perimeter, different areas of the Arsenal each produced a particular prefabricated ship part or other maritime implement, such as munitions, rope, and rigging. These parts could then be assembled into a ship in as little as one day.

The Arsenal produced the majority of [the city's] maritime trading vessels, which generated much of [its] economic wealth and power, lasting until… Napoleon's conquest of the area in 1797.
Where was the Arsenal?

7. In the fall of 1104, Hekla erupted explosively. Settlements as far as 70 km away were abandoned. Others, including the now-reconstructed farm compound at Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng, were completely buried in ash. Where did all this happen?

8. In February and March of 1106, X/1106 C1 was noticed and recorded in in Wales, England, mainland Europe, Japan, Korea, and China. After a while, it seemed to break into two or more pieces. What was X/1106 C1?

9. King Jayavarman VI (ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៦), ruling the Khmer Empire from its capital city, Angkor, died in 1107. What modern country occupies the territory that was the heart of the medieval Khmer Empire?

10. The Norwegian Crusade: in 1108, Sigurd I’s seaborne army stopped on their way to the Holy Land to raid and plunder this “half Christian, half heathen” city. What city was it?

The Grudge Match Week Quiz

1. The bypassing of the Maginot Line kicked off World War II.
2. Bogart and Bacall were costars a second time in The Big Sleep.
3. Rome won the First Punic War. Rome also won the Second and Third Punic Wars.
4. Gatsby was breathless, was, somehow, betrayed when they met again.
5. The Return of the King is the only sequel to win an Oscar without the original movie having done so.
6. Conrad, Gordon, and Bean were, yes, astronauts. They were the Apollo 12 astronauts, and won humanity's rematch with the Moon. (The Moon would subsequently win Apollo 13.)
7. The Filioque controversy is, at least ostensibly, a major reason for the Great Schism of Christianity.
8. After the Hundred Days Napoleon lost Waterloo.
9. The quasi-riot was the exciting debut of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. It was probably more about the goofy dancing then the music, actually, but that doesn't make nearly as good of a history-music story.
10. After the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics, the Soviets and most of their allies boycotted the L.A. Olympics.

Bonus: Italy and Yugoslavia always had issues over who ended up with Trieste. Italy has pretty much ended up with Trieste, as least for now.

I believe the winningest slate of answers belonged to gS49, a venerable name (number? character sequence?) in Michael5000 quizzes!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Nolde v. O'Keeffe!

Emil Nolde
1867 - 1956


Georgia O'Keeffe
1887 - 1986


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, August 28, 2015

At the Movies: Michael5000 vs. "Headhunters" -- GRUDGE MATCH

At the Movies with Michael5000

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
Morten Tyldum, 2011.

imbd: 7.6 (down from 8.8 in June 2012)
Ebert: Three and a half Stars
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (93%) Fresh

Movie adaptations of books are a tricky business. A picture is not, as any thoughtful reader knows, worth anything near a thousand words, so even though movies can hurl 1440 images a minute at us with speech, music, and sound effects thrown in for good measure, a film adaptation must still make deep cuts into the depth and complexity of all but the shallowest novel.

Often, that means that the book was better than that movie. It’s a cliché, because it’s true. But not always. A fairly long-winded business by Mario Puzo, to take one example, might be condensed into a masterpiece. The Big Sleep, a pretty good piece of detective pulp by Raymond Chandler, might get its plot reduced to incomprehensibility, but escape with its best qualities not only preserved but enhanced. E.M. Forster’s Room With a View might be shifted from its native minor key to a lighter C Major, and come out as a charming crowd-pleaser. All sorts of things can happen!

Here is a case study of a book and its adaptation, as experienced by one guy, Michael5000, who has a blog.

#1: The Movie. In 2012, I watched Headhunters, the biggest hit of all time from the Norwegian film industry, of which I am fond. I thought it was great fun. I reviewed it here.

#2: The Book. A few weeks ago, I read Jo Nesbo’s novel Headhunters, on which the film was based. Well, I read the English translation of Nesbo’s Hodejegerne, of course, as my Norwegian is really rather rusty. (I watched the film with subtitles, too. I don’t speak a word of Norwegian.) And, to get more specific, I “ear-read” the novel, which is to say I listened to it on an audiobook.

I enjoyed the book very much. It had the same mood of antic, comic menace that I remember from the film. The characters were vividly written and familiar from my earlier viewing, and all of the key episodes I remembered from the film were present, but written in the sardonic deadpan of Scandinavian noir fiction. It was not an especially profound text, mind you, but it was a very satisfying thriller, and in retrospect the film seemed like it had been a highly successful adaptation, capturing both the spirit and the essential action of the book.

#3: The Movie: GRUDGE MATCH. Then, fired up by all of this nutty Headhunters entertainment, I decided it would be fun to watch the film again. And that, dear reader, was probably pushing things too far. Headhunters, the film, was still entertaining on rewatching, but in the immediate shadow of the novel it also felt a lot less smart than it had the first time around. Parts of the book that I liked were missing, and this time around I knew to miss them. In their condensed film versions, supporting characters – the mistress, for instance, and everyone in law enforcement – no longer seemed to make any sense. The ending seemed less well constructed. The film had changed: it wasn’t as good as it had been before I read the book.

(The film also suffered from an unrelated peril of rewatching: one of my favorite scenes mysteriously changed from the way it was in my memory. In my original review, I wrote
At one point in the movie, the protagonist is naked but covered in a thick layer of human shit, desperately trying to outrace an ominous black SUV down a forest road, at night, driving an antique farm tractor on the front forks of which an enormous white dog has recently been impaled. That's a really bad day. The dog glows luminously in the Scandinavian night, and the lights of the SUV play through the steam coming off of his smear of filth.
In fact, the character is fully clothed at that point beneath the thick layer of shit, and there isn’t nearly as much steam as I had remembered. I apologize for misleading you in my earlier review.)

Prognosis: When you watched something on the big screen and found it delightful, is it fair to come back and reassess it after reading some source material and rewatching it on DVD? Sure it is! Good movies only need to reward you the first time around. A great movie is one that continues to reward you every time you watch it.

Michael5000's imdb rating: 7 (down from 8).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination GRUDGE MATCH: Lippi v. Lippi!

What better climax to Grudge Match Week than that most brutal of conflicts: the conflict between father and son.

Fra Filippo Lippi beat his son Filippino in Round 1, but a loss to El Lissitzky landed him in the Left Brackets and now, well, here we are.  By the Grudge Match Rule, Little Phil has to win outright to stay in the Tournament; a tie goes to Papa Phil on the strength of his original win.  Either way, the proud Lippi name will progress to the Third Round, so that's a consolation.

Fra Filippo Lippi
1406ish - 1469

Filippino Lippi
1457 - 1504

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, August 26, 2015

The Wednesday Post

Boring Postcards: A Re-Introduction
You vs. Six Boring Postcards -- GRUDGE MATCH
the attraction is something that is common as dirt

Back at the beginning of time, I gave this blog its first heady exposure to Boring Postcards.  I even formulated a not-quite-definition of the genre that, if memory serves, has actually been picked up and cited by somebody, somewhere:

Although there are no universal rules, common characteristics of the properly boring postcard might be:
  • it shows an "attraction" that no one would ever actually want to visit
  • the attraction lacks visual interest
  • the attraction is something that is common as dirt
  • a genuinely interesting attraction is made to look uninteresting
  • the image is poorly photographed or framed
  • text on the postcard carries an unintentional pathos or irony
Let's take another look at those first six cards -- the cards that set the standard for all of the many tedious, tedious postcards I've shared with you in the eight years since!  Maybe they'll have grown on you.

Lake Claremore, Claremore, Okla.

Dear Folks; We have a cabin in Amarillo tonight.  Weather is cool & we are really enjoying the trip with Jim.  More later - Dollie



Gigantic Kentucky Dam, erected by the Tennessee Valley Authority at a cost of $115,000,000 is 8,412 feet long and 206 feet high.  Built across the Tennessee River, the gigantic dam, created Kentucky Lake 184 miles long with a shoreline of 2,400 miles.   Beautiful Kentucky Lake provides a wonderful recreation area and excellent fishing.

Mon Eve.

Traveled this far.  Going on to Memphis in the Morning.



The Rolling Surf

Pheasant Grill Drive-In, Arlington, Oregon

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination GRUDGE MATCH: Lewis v. LeWitt!

Why, you might ask, is it Grudge Match Week?  Because the vagaries of the Tournament gave us not one but two Grudge Matches to work through this week.  Here's the first one.

Wyndham Lewis made short work of Sol LeWitt in Round 1, but who knows?  Since then, I for one have been to the epic Sol Le Witt exhibit at DIA-Beacon, in New York, maybe that will tilt my vote in his favor.  Except, I voted for him the first time around.  WHATEVER!!  The point is, Mr. Lewis must ratify his earlier win.  And remember the Grudge Match Rule: to survive, LeWitt needs an outright majority.  A tie would go to Lewis on the strength of his original win.

Here we go!

Wyndham Lewis
1882 - 1957

Sol LeWitt
1928 - 2007

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.