Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Ramsay v. Raphael!

Allan Ramsay
1713 - 1784


1483 - 1520


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, February 12, 2016

At the Movies: The Horror! The Horror!

At the Movies with Michael5000

It Follows
David Robert Mitchell, 2015.

imbd: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% Fresh

The Babadook
Jennifer Kent, 2015.

imbd: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% Fresh

Mrs.5000 and I recently watched two films that have both been widely described as the best and scariest horror movies to come down the pike in quite some time. Neither was remarkably gory, and they were both pretty good! Neither one, for better or worse, was incredibly scary under viewing conditions, which is to say on a laptop screen in our living room, with the lights on. They might have been scary as hell in a dark theater, but then I don’t much like being scared, so no great loss there.

It Follows is a lowish budget American feature set in suburban Detroit. It sets up a scenario that is, although completely arbitrary and ridiculous, also kind of interesting. It seems that there’s this entity that, once it’s focused on you, will eternally stalk towards you at a slow walking pace. It does not have your best interests at heart. The only way to get rid of it is, if I make speak delicately, to “get it on” with someone. Then, the monster – it has no set appearance, but takes on a variety of human forms – will begin stalking the person on with whom you got it. You’re off the hook, and your recent friend is frantically looking around for someone new to chum up to, assuming you’ve been a responsible sexual partner and explained the rules of the game.

Now if you’re like me, you can’t read about this premise and help but think of interesting empirical questions, like “what counts as a sufficient sexual act to transfer the monster’s target?” and “could I trick this thing into walking into a cage, have a friend look the door, and have done with?” and “can it swim?” and “can you give it back, and if so what counts as a sufficient and sufficiently separate sexual act?” and so on.   You get the picture.

The movie’s characters, a slackerish student who has recently become “it” in this dangerous game of touch-tag and her equally slackerish pals, don’t inquire too much into these kinds of questions. And that’s fair, since they are initially very skeptical of the premise and then, once convinced, scared out of their wits. And it’s just as well that they don’t apply too much logic, since the monster only adheres to its straight-line logic for long enough to give us some good creepy images. Later in the movie, we will see it start to freestyle, wandering around more or less like a normal human and, in one memorable instance, standing on the roof of a house. So who knows what the thing is really up to.

It Follows has quite a bit going for it. There’s good acting, good photography, a sustained slackerish moodiness, and a continual sense of menace that keep you from asking too many awkward questions until after the credits roll. It’s a pretty enjoyable entertainment.

The Babadook, set and filmed in Adelaide, South Australia, is the more literary of the two films. It is exquisitely crafted. Most of the action takes place within an elaborate mock-up of an old house, specially designed to allow magnificently framed scenes, one after another, through the whole film. This is the kind of movie where every single shot is a meticulous composition, from the color palette to the exact placement of every prop. It is basically a two-person show, and both actors – a young widow and her little boy – are tremendous.

The story starts strong. The little boy, bright and capable but afraid of monsters and lacking all social filters, is making his mother’s life very difficult. One day, he finds a pop-up book called “Mr. Babadook.” We see a fair amount of this book, and it must be said, it’s pretty terrific. It’s like something Edward Gorey might have designed on a day when he was feeling particularly angry and vengeful. (The same might be said, incidentally, of the lovely little arsenal of anti-monster weapons that the boy constructs with craftsmanship far beyond his years.) The little boy starts blaming creepy occurrences on the book’s monster, the eponymous babadook. Then, his mother starts to get a bit freaked out too. The suspense builds.

Then, essentially, a bunch of crazy horror-movie type stuff happens. And that’s a little disappointing. The film spends a lot of time in its first half setting up the little family’s increasing social isolation and desperation, before making the context irrelevant in the second half. The babadook itself is a sinister delight to behold, but what he is, how he works, and what’s to be done about him all seem only three-quarters baked. Then too, this is a movie that indulges more than once in having characters escape from terrible danger by waking up from a dream. It's potentially justifiable within the film’s own logic, but it's a hoary device that I always find highly annoying.

The Babadook has good acting, good photography, a sustained and slightly gothic moodiness, and a continual sense of menace that keep you from asking too many awkward questions until after the credits roll. It’s a pretty enjoyable entertainment, and it is quite lovely to look at. And to be perfectly honest, if I’d seen it in a dark theater? I bet it would have scared the pants off me.

Michael5000's imdb rating for It Follows: 7.

Michael5000's imdb rating for The Babadook: 8.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Ernst v. Ensor!

Max Ernst
1891 - 1976

Lost to Richard Estes in Round 1.
Beat English painter William Etty in First Round Elimination.

James Ensor
1860 - 1949
Belgium's famous painter

Survived an early deficit and a voter defection in an amazing Round 1 comeback victory over Sir Jacob Epstein. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Lost to Thomas Eakins, the United States' famous painter, in Round 2.

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, February 10, 2016

The Wednesday Post

Exploring the Evergreen State, Part IV
beautiful roads, gorgeous trees -- golly!

Back to our tour of the state of Washington, as we head down from Mt. Rainier, past long, skinny Lake Chelan, and out onto the irrigated agricultural plans of Eastern Washington. 

639 - Mt. Rainier and Lake Tipsoe, Washington

Posted: December 15, 1948

Don't want people lookin' down upon me, anyway.  Rather just look at me.  You do have beautiful scenery, tho, & I'm really a lover of the outdoors.  One card you sent with bridle paths, beautiful roads, gorgeous trees -- golly!  Even like snow, but not skis.  We can't seem to co-operate.  Ice skate some -- used to, anyway, & love coasting.  But give me a good saddle horse & I'm really happy.

Best to you for Christmas & for all time to come. Y.

RIMROCK LAKE. Only a few miles from the summit of the Cascade Range in Central Washington, the lake provides ample reward for the fisherman who seeks to enjoy his favorite sport amid ideal conditions.  Located on the White Pass highway are numerous resorts to provide every comfort for the traveler.

LAKE CHELAN as viewed from the highway above Twenty-five Mile Creek.  This beautiful lake extends into the very [unintelligible] of the Cascade range in North Central Washington.

Wed July 23 [1966]

Left home at 6:30 yesterday, at Lake Chelan 3:00 P.M.  Nice motel right on the lake.  Left this A.M. at 7:00.  Went 14 min off highway 97 to Chief Joseph Dam and now at 9:00 A.M. are her in Okanogan for breakfast.  Plan to go on north to British Columbia and return via Bellingham.  Real hot but having a tine trip so far.  Expect to get home Sat.

Love to all, Dad

LADY OF THE LAKE makes its regular stop at Lake Chelan [State?] Park.

Posted: July 23, 1958

Okanogan, Wash 9 a.m.

Wed 9 a.m.

Dear Florence & All

We stayed at Chelan last nite - Thot we'd take the boat trip today, but decided 10 hrs on board this little ship with 30-35 people would be too long with 90° heat.  We are enjoying the trip - saw the huge Chief Joseph dam this a.m.  This is a rough mountain country.  Rivers bordered by beautiful peach apple pear apricot trees.  We'll be in Canada soon.  Missed seeing De Ja at Wenatchee.

Love Mother & Daddy

APPLE PICKING TIME.  During the autumn months the orchards and packing sheds of Eastern Washington are the center of activity.  The various varieties of apples which have ripened during the long days of sunshine have reached the peak of color and flavor and must now be harvested, packed and stored for release to the world-wide markets during the months ahead.

Posted: July 16, 1963

Sunnyside.  Tues 1:00 P.M.

Left Lewiston Mon AM.  Went up to the Spaulding grave then back to Lewiston then to Walla Walla and out to the Whitman grave.  Then to Pendelton, Ore and spent the evening with an old girl friend of Mother's.  Left Pendelton this AM and are having coffee in Sunnyside before we go to Mel's.  Tom wasn't home as we came by.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round TIEBREAK

We've had 84 First Round Elimination contests, and there have only been four ties.  The most recent one before now -- "now" being a deadlock between Munch and Nash -- was in July 2013.  I had to dig back into the archives a bit to figure out how to handle the situation.

So!  Adam Elsheimer and Munch will now compete for the "upper" spot and the right to take on Richard Estes way back on the third page of the brackets.  Jacob Epstein will contend with Nash to stay alive in the bottom spot, and the winner will take on the Master of Moulins on page six.

Faceoff #1: Elsheimer v. Munch

Adam Elsheimer
1578 - 1610
German; worked in Italy

Pounded by Eakins in Round 1.
Tied with Sir Jacob Epstein in First Round Elimination.


Edvard Munch
1863 - 1944

Upset by Czech art deco guy Alphonse Mucha in Round 1.
Tied with Paul Nash in Round 1 Elimination.  

Faceoff #2: Epstein v. Nash

Sir Jacob Epstein
1880 - 1959
American; worked in Britain

Blew a big lead over James Ensor to lose in Round 1 by a two-vote swing. Your vote counts!!!
Tied with Adam Elsheimer in Round 1 Elimination.  


Paul Nash
1889 - 1946

Lost at the last second to Murillo in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Tied with Edvard Munch in First Round Elimination.

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 faceoffs is superior to the other is fine, but casting your votes for two artists in the same faceoff is not permissible.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Saint of the Month: St. Apollonia

The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, Jacob Jordaens, 1628

St. Apollonia

AKA: Saint Apollonia of Alexandria
Feast Day: February 9.
Not to be confused with: Saint Leucio of Apollonia,Saint Tirso of Apollonia,Saint Isaurus of Apollonia,Saint Innocent of Apollonia, Saint Felix of Apollonia, Saint Jeremias of Apollonia, Saint Peregrinus of Apollonia

Really Existed? Very probably.
Timeframe: Third Century.
Place: Alexandria, Egypt.

Credentials: Venerated by tradition.
Martyrdom: Tortured, burned alive.

Patron Saint of: Dentists, people suffering from toothache and dental problems.
Symbolism: Teeth, pincers, a palm branch.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Apollonia.

Q: Then why are you talking about her today, instead of tomorrow?

A: Because I lost track of what day it was.  Shut up.

Q: How do you know that tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Apollonia?

A: That's better.  I know because it's the entry for February 9th in the Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a recent gift from the fabulous Mrs.5000.

At 625 pages long, it is really not especially "little."  It was published in 1878 and got a special shout-out from Pope Leo XIII in 1879; my copy shows a copyright renewal in 1894 and was inscribed by "Virginia Wright Wall" in 1955. 

Sometimes I regret living in a time when we are expected to show so
much restraint in our use of fonts.
It takes a lot of text from Butler, the wonderfully earnest and turgid eighteenth century hagiographer, and this makes it very retro and awesome in a dusty sort of way.  It is also matter-of-factly gruesome, and often a bit glib about how much fun it is to be a martyr.

Obviously, Little Pictorial Lives immediately becomes the prize of my little hagiographic library.  To celebrate, we will let it tell us about St. Apollonia in its own words!  I'll just add for context that the kernel of Apollonia's story comes from a letter written at the time by the Bishop of Alexandria, so we're pretty sure that she was a real person who met a real unpleasant fate.  Parental Advisory: This saint's life depicts violence and disturbing images.

I predict that Dr. Noisewater will make a reference to Apollonia 6 reference in the comments.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round FOUR: Ely v. Haeckel!

Some funny things happened on the way to this month's Fourth Round match.  The oldest pair of open Third Round matches were Benton/Lotto and Goldsworthy/Magritte, but there's no point in advancing them because the left bracket is already congested by a tie in that area.  The next oldest pair was Massys/Matisse and Metsu/Michaelangelo, but -- check this out -- Metsu and Michaelangelo have fought to a tie themselves!  So that brings us to the current match, brought to you by two close-fought art-historical upsets: Haeckel defeating Franz Marc, and Tim Ely upsetting Manet.  Never a dull moment!

Timothy Ely
born 1949
  • Took First Place in Phase 1, Flight 7, with a voting score of .813.
  • Tied for First in Phase 2, Flight 5 of the Play-In Tournament with a voting score of .500.
  • Laid a beating on William Dobson in Round 1.
  • Surprised Man Ray in Round 2.
  • Upset Édouard Manet in Round 3 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Ernst Haeckel
1834 - 1919

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. Fourth-round matches are open for at least three months after posting.