Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop Stardom with Niece #1

Niece #1: want to see a pop music video that Dan and I made?

Michael5000: I would like nothing more.

Michael5000: So give me some backstory.

Niece #1: Dan is in a band with the girl who's singing
we decided to make a video
I edited the video
the next step is pop stardom

Michael5000: Since when do you edit videos?

Niece #1: I learned how in high school, I haven't done it a lot though

Michael5000: You do well.

Niece #1: why thank you!

Michael5000: It's not as quick-cut as most music videos, but that's well suited to the mood of the song.

Niece #1: we also had a budget of $0, and shot it all on an iPhone

Michael5000: It's pretty freakin' cromulent. Should I share it on Facebook to get the viral going?

Niece #1:  would you please? or blog it?

The song is "Corner of Your Heart" by Lina Lamont.  Niece #1 is video editor and also appears in the role of Second Sultry Dancing Woman.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #10/64

Faceoff #1: Caro v. Carracci

Sir Anthony Caro
born 1924

Lost to Vittore Carpaccio by two votes in a Round 1 plagued by low voter turnout.  YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Annibale Carracci
1560 - 1609

Beaten badly by Carlo Carrà in Round 1.

Faceoff #2: Castagno v. Catlin

Andrea del Castagno
1421 - 1457

Lost decisively to impressionist Mary Cassatt in Round 1.


George Catlin
1796 - 1872

Defeated by Vincenzo Catena 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, November 28, 2012

The Wednesday Post

Greetings from the Upper Midwest
Reader la gringisima reinvents the vintage boring postcard.

These genre-perfect but cheerfully subversive postcards were posted on the gringa's blog here a few months ago, and I'm almost sure she gave me permission to share them here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Bazille v. Gentile Bellini!

Jacopo Bassano beat Pompeo Batoni 8-4 in the First Round, but it didn't do him much good in the end. Both artists get knocked out of the tournament this week with records of 1-2, Batoni (12 cumulative votes for, 21 against) falling to Frederic Bazille and Bassano (16-21) overpowered by Gentile Bellini.

Today's contestants are also the duo that handed German abstract painter Willi Baumeister his double eliminations, but Bazille had a greater margin of victory.  Does it follow that Bazille will make it past Gentile Bellini? Let's find out!

Frederic Bazille
1841 - 1870

Gentile Bellini
c.1429 - 1507

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 26, 2012

Presentation of the Flag and Arms of the Infinite Art Tournament

We spent a lot of time looking at flags on this here blog, but we've been pretty sluggish about developing an actual practical heraldry of our own. So I'm delighted at this juncture to present:

The Flag of the Infinite Art Tournament!

It is, as you see, a vertical tricolor.  It uses colors that are underrepresented in the flag world: orange, grey, and purple.  I'll make a real-world version one of these months.


With the flag under our belt, it is possible to put together proper crests for the Dorkfest winners:

The Arms of the Infinite Art Tournament Vice-Dork of the Northern Division!

This arms, granted by right to Mm Mud, features the colors of the IAT on the "dexter," or "stage right," half.     On the "sinister," or "stage left" side, an emblematic depiction of northernness: Polaris, the North Star, as depicted in the flag of Alaska.

The Arms of the Infinite Art Tournament Vice-Dork of the Southern Division!

Granted by right to Chuckdaddy, this arms conjoins the colors of the flag of the IAT with those of the flag of world's southernmost Forgotten Land, the Republic of Northern Antarctica.

The Arms of the Infinite Art Tournament Dork!

Granted by right to Nichim, this arms combines that IAT colors with the personal family heraldry of the current IAT Dork.

...which takes care of everything except:

The Personal Arms of Michael5000!

The Avatar in Salem

It's only been a few days since the Avatar last checked in, but he had a busy and sentimental Thanksgiving weekend.  While the real me ran various miles in the City of Roses and up around sisterjen's place, the Avatar made it to Salem, Oregon.

He ran past this house:

This (from Google Streetview, of course) is where my grandparents lived when I was a kid.  I spent a lot of time there; it was dark green then, and had an obnoxious line of holly trees up the side of that long driveway, but the view from the street is otherwise pretty much unchanged.  It's a small house, and has a singularly unwieldy layout, but it also has (or had, anyway) a snazzy indoor-outdoor space extending out from the back door.

The detail that makes me most nostalgic is the big old evergreen looming up behind the house, which looks just like it did thirty years ago.  In those days, my grandpa had the back of the lot tricked out like a small farm; there was an extra icebox in the garage there to store some of his surplus.  The view from the sky shows that that's all been taken out now, which is no surprise; it must have been a ton of work.  It was pretty fun to graze back there in the late summer though, I'll tell you what.

And we spent quite a few Thanksgivings there, too.

Then the Avatar backtracked a few miles north to visit Oregon's Capital Building.  He'll head southwest on River Road to Independence as the journey to Corvallis continues.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Delvaux v. Denis!

Paul Delvaux
1897 - 1994


Maurice Denis
1870 - 1943


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 23, 2012

Kitchen Science Write-up: The Sand of Sand Beach

A few months ago, I had the privilege to visit Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine.  Most of our stops at this preserved of unfettered nature, I confess, involved either ice cream or legions of people trying to sell us Acadia National Park licensed leisure wear in a faux-village setting, but we did also visit a small stretch of coastline called "Sand Beach."

The name "Sand Beach" would be a bit redundant where I come from, but apparently this particular beach is the only stretch of sand-like material for quite some miles, the local geology, currents, and tides not favoring the build-up of coarse silicates at the waters edge.  Indeed, said the interpretive material, the sand of Sand Beach isn't really sand per se, but mostly chunks of wave-battered seashell.  "Cool," thought I, and quickly gathered a sample.  (A few minutes later it would occur to me that one oughtn't take samples of relatively scarce materials in protected natural areas; my only defense is that I did what I did in the name of (kitchen) science.)

The Experiment

Back at the Castle5000 laboratories, the experiment was conducted as follows: a more or less equal amount of Sand Beach sand was placed in each of two teacups.  To one was added vinegar, whose acidic quality is often demonstrated by its amusing reaction when added to baking soda.  To the other was added a carbonated cola beverage, the corrosive power of which is legendary, albeit -- in my considerable experience -- entirely unreproduceable.

In the vinegar sample, a thin layer of bubbles appeared within minutes and would remain for the next two or three weeks:

My hypothesis is that the bubbles were the reaction of the acidic vinegar with the calcium carbonate in the shell fragments in the sand.  No such bubbles occurred in the cola sample, and although there were initially the same bubbles one would expect in any carbonated beverage these soon dissipated in the normal fashion.

At the end of approximately three weeks, there was a marked difference between the two samples:

At left, the vinegar sample, and at right the cola sample with unfortunate caramel color sludge.  Note that the volume of sediment is far less in the left-hand sample, and also that whereas the right-hand sample still contains many visible large white shell particles, the left-hand sample appears to be comprised of fine mineral particles.

CONCLUSIONS: Sand Beach really is mostly shells, although maybe not entirely shells like the literature suggested.  Vinegar is probably a lot more acidic and corrosive than cola.  It is fun to conduct little experiments, even if they make your lair smell like vinegar.

I did not use my entire supply of contraband Sand Beach sand in conducting this experiment, so follow-up experiments are possible and I would be happy to entertain suggestions from the floor.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saint of the Month: St. Cecilia!

St. Cecilia
Jacque Stella, 1596-1657
Tournament non-participant.

AKA: St. Cicilia
Feast Day: November 22.

Really Existed? Based on my superficial secondary research, I am not convinced.
Timeframe: Possibly the third century.
Place: Rome

Credentials: By tradition, unambiguously, in both Catholic and Orthodox hagiographies.
Martyrdom: According to legend, from injuries inflicted in a failed suffocation followed by a failed decapitation.

Patron Saint of: musicians, composers, poets, luthiers, singers, Omaha.
Symbolism: The organ, or other musical instruments.

Happy St. Cecilia’s Day! This would be a good moment to break out your old Handel records!

St. Cecilia is one of the mid-major saints, and as such gets a good write-up in the stodgy but very scholarly Catholic Encyclopedia. We learn there that her story comes from writings of the 400s, and goes like this:
Cecilia, a virgin of a senatorial family and a Christian from her infancy, was given in marriage by her parents to a noble pagan youth, Valerianus. When, after the celebration of the marriage, the couple had retired to the wedding-chamber, Cecilia told Valerianus that she was betrothed to an angel who jealously guarded her body; therefore Valerianus must take care not to violate her virginity. Valerianus wished to see the angel, whereupon Cecilia sent him to the third milestone on the Via Appia where he should meet Bishop (Pope) Urbanus. Valerianus obeyed, was baptized by the pope, and returned a Christian to Cecilia. An angel then appeared to the two and crowned them with roses and lilies.
This is of course a pretty awesome story, and it is a shame that this kind of thing doesn't happen more in day-to-day life. As the tale continues, though, St. Cecilia runs afoul of the local authorities – in one version they are alarmed by her rapid conversion of 400 new Christians – and they condemn her to be suffocated in her own overheated sauna. When this doesn't work, her executioner is told to behead her. Apparently unfamiliar with this part of his job, the executioner gives up in a panic after three tries – it generally takes, I have read, quite a bit more chopping than you'd think if you don't have a skilled professional headsman – and poor Cecilia lingers on for three more days, spending the time in revising her will in favor of the poor and the religious.

Guido Reni, 1575-1642.
Expected Tournament debut Summer 2015
The execution is certainly a comedown from the roses-and-lilies part of the story, but that's probably to be expected in a tale of an early Christian martyr. The Catholic Encyclopedia adds a little more buzzkill, stating frankly that “In this shape the whole story has no historical value; it is a pious romance….” Citing numerous fragmentary bits and bobs of early Christian documentation, however, the Encyclopedia asserts that the existence of St. Cecilia is “historical fact,” although the only specific information that it is willing to vouch for is that she probably died in the middle or late third century. Other sober sources suggest that Cecilia was probably the founder of an early Christian church in Rome, but it’s hard to say when or if she was actually martyred for doing so. If she coexisted with Pope Urban, as the original story maintains, than the timing wouldn't have been right for her to face persecution from Roman authorities. Others serious sources, meanwhile, note that St. Cecilia appears rather abruptly in the fifth century lists of martyrs but is missing from similar lists from the fourth century, and ask pointedly why she showed up so late for the party.

There seem to be any number of stories about the recovery of St. Cecilia’s relics in the ninth century. Accounts all involve the excavation of a disused church, but vary widely as to whether a Pope had a prophetic dream, which Pope was involved, whether or not Cecilia’s body was perfectly intact when found (or when re-exhumed in 1599), and whether those who witnessed her body were blessed by miracles.

St. Cecilia is the patron of music, so even if you don’t have any old Handel records this would be a good day to listen to some tunes. The connection – I am leaning on the Catholic Encyclopedia again here – apparently went like this. First, a poetic tradition based on her myth introduced the idea that while the musicians at her wedding played pagan music, she sang in her heart only to God. In the medieval period, artists got confused with the translation of this phrase and started depicted her playing the organ. When the Academy of Music was founded in Rome in the 16th century, she was picked out as the patron, and her association with music and musicians was secure.

 Her “ordinary attribute” in the artistic tradition is an organ.  One commenter points out that since the only organ-like instruments in Rome were generally associated with the low-life of the circus and other pagan spectacles, “she would have been more likely to trample such an instrument underfoot than to play it.” Well, irony’s cheap. I like to think that a saint with music in her portfolio would make it her business to cultivate an inclusive love of the many genres, varieties, and scenes in which sonic art occurs.

Antiveduto Grammatica, 1571-1626
Tournament non-participant.

John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917
Expected Tournament debut Fall/Winter 2016

Max Ernst, 1891-1976.
Expected Tournament debut Early Spring 2013

Nicholas Poussin, 1594-1665
Expected Tournament debut Summer 2015

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wednesday Post

Balthus: the Philatelic Legacy
Count Klossowski de Rola leaves the Infinite Art Tournament.

I refuse to confide and don't like it when people write about art. - Balthus

If you want to be a subversive artist, you really can't subvert anything more entrenched than the mythos of the starving artist, and in this sense Count Klossowski de Rola was certainly a radical. Raised in great wealth, he was sponsored in his early days by Rainer Maria Rilke, who was his mother's lover, and family friends like André Gide and Jean Cocteau. In later years, he enjoyed a palace in Switzerland with his wife who was 35 years his junior. I mean, Bono sang at his funeral.

His work is dominated by pubescent and prepubescent female nudes and a rendering of space that invites speculation as to whether he was cleverly distorting the norms of perspective, aping others who were cleverly distorting the norms of perspective, or just wasn't a very good draughtsman.  In general the Art Establishment, and the French Republic, take him seriously:

Whereas someone claiming to act on behalf of a Somali postal service evidently sees his images as an opportunity to sell some legitimized T & A, producing "Somali postage stamps" the possession or use of which within Somalia would almost certainly be viewed by many as a potentially capital crime.

Honestly, it's hard to figure who should be the most offended by this: the Somali people?  Philatelists?  The Balthus Estate?

My strong initial impression of Balthus was that he was without merit and that his reputation was a stone cold art-historical error, but recently I had the opportunity to see this piece at MOMA in New York City, and confess that it is really something in person.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 2: Clouet v. Cornell!

The bracket was shaken up a bit this week when Cole and Constable, two artists that many voters found somewhat similar, fought to a 7-7 tie.  They will reenter action sometime in 2014 against successful artists from the play-in tournament.

François Clouet
c.1522 - 1572

Scraped by living artist Francesco Clemente by a two-vote margin in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Joseph Cornell
1903 - 1972

Gutted John Singleton Copley 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, November 19, 2012

Element of the Month: Palladium!

November's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 106.42 amu
Melting Point: 1554.9 °C
Boiling Point: 2963 °C

It is unfortunate that I don't really understand chemistry very well. If I did, I might be able to tell you how catalytic converters work. I guess it will have to suffice to say that Palladium, our Element of the Month for November, is all about catalysis. It totally triggers reactions by which nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide are rendered into regular old Nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and unburnt hydrocarbons are rendered into carbon dioxide and water. So unless your vehicle is even older than mine, which is unlikely, you are likely packing around a certain amount of Palladium in your exhaust system.

Cleaning automotive exhaust is a useful and socially commendable task, but it's yeoman's work for what is technically a precious metal. Palladium is similar in many ways to its elemental cousin Platinum, with which it is generally found in nature, and like other rare shiny metals it is sometimes used in making pretty shiny things. It is not quite as durable or easy to work as some of the other rare shinies, however, so it can be spared for technical uses, for instance in electronic capacitors and in the purification and storage of Hydrogen. But there is no shame in having to work for a living. Even Platinum often pitches in and takes on its share of catalytic converting.

The Centerfold!

Like a lot of useful but rareish materials with few points of supply, Palladium has been subject to a lot of goofiness in the commodities markets of this our modern age. A dozen or so years ago, the Palladium mines of Russia's Ural Mountains were, for reasons X, Y, and Z, failing to get much of the shiny stuff to market, causing a tremendous spike in price. At least one vast automobile making conglomerate -- fearing that without Palladium, it wouldn't be able to make catalytic converters, and therefore would not be able to produce street-legal cars -- bought up every scrap it could find at the top of the spike, and then felt abashed when the subsequent resumption of supply brought prices back in line with historical norms. To the extent, that is, that the people who make up a vast manufacturing conglomerate can collectively feel abashed.

Readers, I must confess I fear that certain unscrupulous people may sometimes try to manipulate the market prices of our precious natural elements in hope of profiting at the expense of others! It is at least true that Mrs.5000's business fax machine will occasionally chatter to life in the dead of night with a random exhortation that now, now is the time to invest in a little known company that shall surely profit mightily in the coming Palladium boom! And in preparing this little write-up, I was amused to see it claimed on a well-known open-source online encyclopedia that Palladium is used in "one fourth of all goods that come to market." It's hard to imagine what such a nakedly absurd claim would be doing there, if it were not bait placed for the benefit of people doing "investment research." I deleted it for the nonce, but left in the relatively more truthy "the numerous applications and limited supply sources of palladium result in the metal attracting considerable investment interest."

Palladium was discovered in 1802 by William Hyde Wollaston, an incredibly brainy guy who would also discover Rhodium the next year; he was messing around with Platinum smelting at the time, which brought him in contact with some of the other elements that tend to hang out with Platinum. He was also instrumental in developing electric motors, batteries, and the concept of the conservation of energy. He was, though, one of the guys who insisted that Niobium and Tantalum were the same thing. He was wrong about that.