Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #57/64

Faceoff #1: Riopelle v. Stella

Jean-Paul Riopelle
1923 - 2002

Tied with Bridget Riley in his first stab at the First Round.
Lost to Adriaen van Ostade in a second try at Round 1 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Frank Stella
born 1936

Lost to Dutch master Jan Steen in Round 1 by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Faceoff #2: Stuart v. Stubbs

Gilbert Stuart
1755 - 1828

Beaten easily by Clyfford Still in Round 1.


George Stubbs
1724 - 1806

Made short work of by Graham Sutherland in Round 1.

Vote for the two artists of your choice! Votes generally go in the comments, but have been known to arrive by email, by postcard, or in a sealed envelope.

Please note that you may vote only once in each face-off.  Opining that both of the artists in one of the two face-offs is superior to the other is fine, but casting your votes for two artists in the same face-off is not permissible.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Disillusionment of Wednesday VI

Wednesdays have been haunted
By this game of poetry criticism.
This is the last one.
I promise.

Under the Sea

The key to Wallace Stevens's odd poem "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" is hidden in plain sight.  It requires only a simple anagram operation on the first letters of the otherwise opaque lines to render Steven's message meaningful. What we find, after sorting out "tbnooonwaptodci," is a manic zest for nautical daring-do. "Now to octopi band!" Stevens announces, like a kind of ancient submariner ready to lead us to our own destruction, or perhaps redemption.

With this key in hand, much that seemed arbitrary is now clear, in particular the "old sailor" who seems so intrusive in a naive reading.  The seaman stands revealed -- or rather, reclines revealed -- as the author himself, catching some intoxicated rest before the adventure begins. "Red skies at night," as everyone knows, are a "sailor's delight," and a man happily catching tigers on land tonight may well be happily be catching -- or collaborating with -- octopi tomorrow. What otherwise seems like just so much silly babbling nonsense about contrasting colors, similarly, suddenly becomes recognizable as the dreamlike loveliness of the undersea spectrum, with its purples, greens, and occasional yellows (but never reds). Note too the witty deployment of the word "rings," which is obviously a synonym for the octopi "band" but also a clear reference to the tentacular suckers characteristic to the animal and perhaps, even, a reference to its overall radial symmetry. Needless to say, octopi do not require decorative socks or sashes; the very idea is absurd, and this is perhaps a weak point in the poem as properly understood. Stevens is only being direct, however, when he announces that "People are not going to dream of baboons and periwinkles." They certainly are not: there will not be time for such reveries on our journey to the octopus lair.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Still v. Sutherland!

Clyfford Still
1904 - 1980

Beat American Gilbert Stuart in Round 1.

Graham Sutherland
1903 - 1980

Defeated George Stubbs 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, March 20, 2017

Through History With the New Monday Quiz: the 1400s

Many important historical things happened in the 1400s.  Let's start the tour!

1. The Kingdom of Kongo was founded sometime in or around the 1400s, and would survive until the late 1800s. Where?

2. This map of the world, called the Kangnido map, was made in about 1402. Like most map-makers, the Kangnido cartographers had a bit of a hometown bias. Where did they live?

3. Andrei Rublev is considered one of the great masters of his country’s artistic tradition. Here’s a work he completed in around 1405. Where do you suppose Mr. Rublev hailed from?

4. Timur, AKA Tamerlane, was “the last of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian Steppe.” Having crushed the Dehli Sultanate in the late 1390s, he sacked Armenia, Georgia, and Syria in 1400, then Baghdad in 1401 and again in 1402. He began a planned conquest of China in 1405, but fell ill and died before the attack could begin in earnest. This was a lucky break for the Chinese, as being defeated by Tamerlane was seldom good news -- massacre of city populations was a commonplace, and it’s estimated that 17 million people, around 5% of the world’s population, were put to his sword.

And yet, many people in Europe thought that Tamerlane was just great! Why were some Europeans glad that this brutal conqueror had shown up?

5. In 1405, Zheng He (AKA Chang Ho) began the first of his amazing adventures. What would these amazing adventures consist of?

6. Construction on this building got underway in 1406. These days it is a museum of art and history, probably the most-visited museum in the world. We have an odd name for it in English: Name that Building!

7. Game of Thrones 1407: John the Fearless, angered that he has lost influence at court, has 15 henchman waylay the King’s brother in the street and stab him to death. This begins almost three decades of civil war between the staunchly feudal Royalist Armagnac faction and the English-allied Burgundians, who favored a less centralized social and political system. In what country did this all go down?

8. The Moa were several species of flightless bird that stood up to three and a half meters tall. Before humans arrived, their only enemy was the Haast’s eagle, a more aerial creature of similar mass, up to 230 kg or 510 pounds. But then humans arrived, and sometime around 1400 both the Moa and the Haast’s eagle went extinct. What group of humans failed to manage their bird hunting on sustainable principles?

9. Since 1378, there had been two rival claimants to the Papacy. In 1409, the Council of Pisa was convened to resolve this problem and reunify the Church. What was the outcome?

10. In 1409, a young sculptor named Donatello finished this sculpture. It is considered an early version of a more famous one he would make in bronze thirty years later. Who is the subject?

Through History with The New Monday Quiz: the 1390s

1. The Byzantine Emperor went to Western Europe to try to round up support against the Ottomans.  He was fairly successful, but the support that got sent was a big fiasco.
2. Vytautas the Great ruled imperial Lithuania.
3. The Book of Ballymote is from Ireland.
4. Kaffa is the southern highlands of Ethiopia.
5. The mad king and his ruined party were in France.
6. Tenochititlan was in Central Mexico.
7. The curious thing about Boniface IX and Benedict XIII is that they were Popes at the same time, or at least had competing claims.
8. The conquerer is Timur, or Tamerlane.
9. The three countries of the Kalmar Union were Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
10. Mysore became part of independent India in 1947.

I was hoping there would be a tie this time, so I could riff on the "competing claims" theme, but quiz victory, like medieval Lithuania under Vytautas, was basically a one man show.  UnWise Owl returns to Quiz victory after, oh, who knows how long an absence.  But... can he stand up to the fifteenth century? 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Toulouse-Lautrec v. de Troy!

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
1864 - 1901


Jean-François de Troy
1679 - 1752


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, March 17, 2017

Eastward the Course of the Avatar Makes Its Way

It's been a while since we checked in on the running Avatar. Remember him? The insubstantial little guy who, as I jog in plodding little circles around town, is out exploring the great continent at the exact same pace? We last saw him in January 2016, in central Missouri. What has he been up to since then?

Well, for a few months after that, he was running vigorously southeast.  Then various things happened, and he sputtered along fitfully for a while.  Then, some other things happened, and there was a three month stretch (August 11 to November 10) when he made it fewer than 15 miles down the road.  And so it was that he found himself languishing just north of Cairo, Illinois, a city that we can safely say has not lived up to the expectations of its founders.

The three months since then, though, have been pretty good!  As I've gone through a mostly-successful running "reboot," the Avatar has explored western Kentucky, visited Paducah, crossed the ferry back to Illinois at Cave-In-Rock, and bopped back and forth across the Illinois-Indiana border a few times.  And now he is in Vincennes, on the banks of the Wabash. He says hi.

We haven't looked at the Avatar's journey as a whole since December 2014, so let's get a little context here:

Knox County, Indiana, is his 93rd.  The colors represent years, with the dark purple clump showing the Avatar's initial tour of the Willamette Valley in late 2012.  The little bulls-eyes show counties where the Avatar has been, but I haven't.  There will be a lot of those from now until he gets to Pennsylvania.  And, I bet he'll be dipping his toe in the Atlantic by Summer 2018!  Assuming I am still around myself, naturally.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Semi-Finals: Fabritius v. Gentileschi!

"Semifinals" designates the Fourth to Seventh Rounds of the Infinite Art Tournament.  This is a Left Bracket Fourth Round Match between Carel Fabritius (5-1, 47-20, .701) and Artemisia Gentileschi (3-1, 38-16, .704).  Leaving the Tournament at the hands of Fabritius is Richard Estes (4-2, 37-30, .552).

Carel Fabritius
1622 - 1654

Artemisia Gentileschi
1593 - 1652
  • Slew Gentile da Fabriano in his tent in Round 1.
  • Dispatched Théodore Géricault in Round 2.
  • Outpolled Jacques-Louis David in Round 3.
  • Lost to Caspar David Friedrich in Round 4.