Monday, September 30, 2013

The Songs of the Fifty States: Maine

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

Sunlight on the Coast, by Maine resident Winslow Homer.  Expected Tournament Entrance in a few months.


Size: 91,646 km2 (39th)

2012 Population: 1,329,192 (41st)

Statehood: 1820 (23rd), by seceding from Massachusetts.  As the northern chunk of Massachusetts, it had been half a state since 1788 (6th) or 1776 (13-way tie for first), depending on how you look at it.

American Human Development Index: 4.89 (29th -- way out of order, but I was there recently.)

Art Mecca: Mrs.5000 and I recently visited the Colby Museum of Art, on the campus of Colby College in Waterville.  It was a large and very impressive collection, in many ways comparable to, say, the flagship museum of art in one of your more provincial American cities.  It recently became a lot more fabulous, too, as a married couple with a lot of enthusiasm for the visual arts and, presumably, a budget that allows for the occasional splurge, donated their entire collection of American paintings and Chinese antiquities.  The place is just rotten with Sargents, Homers, Whistlers, and the like -- more than 300 Whistlers, they claim.  

"The Colby" -- I don't know if anybody really says that, but doesn't it sound very artsy? -- is apparently one of seven museums on the "Maine Art Museum Trail." I guess that designation pretty much sums up where the Art Meccas are in the state of Maine. I wonder if the people at the eighth most prestigious art collection in Maine are always wishing they could get onto the Trail list, but the other museums won't let them join, and so they are perpetually bitter and pretend that they don't want to be on that stupid list anyway.

Michael 5000's Maine

First Visited: September 12, 2002 (41st)
Most Recently Visited: September 4, 2013 (5th)

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

Have Admired the Visual Arts In: Yes.
Have Geohashed In: Yes, successfully.
Have Slept Overnight In: Yes.

Counties Visited: 16/16 (complete)
% Complete: 100% (8th complete state, September 3, 2013)

Mrs. 5000's Counties Visited: 16/16 (complete)
% Complete: 100% (6th complete state, September 2, 2013)
Mrs.5000 First Visited: unknown

Atlas of All Roads Travelled

Plans and Aspirations

If I find myself back in Maine, I'd like to go for a run, and then check out a few of the other museums on the Art Museum Trail. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Hamilton v. Hammershoi!

Richard Hamilton
1922 - 2011


Wilhelm Hammershoi
1864 - 1916


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, September 27, 2013

Element of the Month: Radon!

September's Element of the Month:
The Thinker, probably the best-known work of Auguste Radon,
actually exists in many... what? It isn't? Well, never mind.


Atomic Mass: 222ish amu
Melting Point: -71 °C
Boiling Point: -61.7 °C

Mining is surely one of the most dangerous things a human can do in the course of a career. One of the many, many, many dangers involved is something that they used to call the mala metallorum. This “metal disease” was lung cancer – a much rarer thing in the Western medical tradition before Spanish adventurers in the Caribbean discovered the joys of nicotine – and the reason that miners were vulnerable is because they were breathing in Radon.

In a way, Radon is fairly insidious stuff. It’s a colorless and odorless gas, and therefore basically undetectable. It is also heavy as Lead (heavier, actually: Lead is element 82), so even though it is a gas it doesn’t exactly swirl and billow. It tends to sink and, if it’s in an enclosed space, to stay where it is. Does this mean that Renaissance miners were descending into vast enclosed underground pools of Radon? No, it doesn’t. Radon is produced very, very gradually by the breakdown of Thorium and Uranium, neither of which are especially predominant in bedrock, or even in their own ores. Also, Radon’s half-life is less than four days. So it’s not that there is a ton of Radon about, just that in certain enclosed spaces – a mine, or an overzealously weather-tight basement – a tiny amount of Radon can go a long, long way.

The Centerfold!

This ordinary household glass might be 1/3 filled
with Radon.  But probably not.  You could tell
for sure by picking it up, but I wouldn't recommend that.

So, let’s say there is an atom of Radon pushed up into your basement along with other gasses released from minerals in the soil and rocks underneath your house. If it is a perfectly average atom, it will decay in a well-mannered fashion just as its half-life comes around, at 3.8 days. “Whew!” you think, “it’s gone.” But no, now you’ve got a hot little atom of radioactive Polonium, which will hang around for a median of three minutes before itself decaying into a radioactive isotope of lead for a half hour. Bismuth, for 20 minutes! Another form of Polonium, for a tiny tiny fraction of a second! Another form of radioactive lead, for… 22 years. After which there are still a few steps, through another form of Bismuth and another form of Polonium, before you’ve finally got a nice, innocent form of lead. But in the meantime, if any of those little solid radioactive particles adhered to basement dust, and you breathed in that dust particle, then you would have a tiny tiny chance that that little atom could have nasty consequences. The more such dust particles inhaled, of course, the worse the danger.

Radon in the basement is a well-known issue these days, but it’s an example of how sneaky this element is that the problem was only discovered around 1980, when somebody noticed that some nuclear power plant employees were more radioactive showing up for work than they were when they left for home. If you poke around, you can find figures showing what the danger threshold is for Radon content in your basement or your mine, and also estimates of how many people die each year of the mala metallorum. There is a great deal of guesswork involved in all this, however, because the leading cause of lung cancer (see “joys of nicotine,” above) is so very, very prevalent that it makes it difficult to put together a good methodology for studying all the other causes of lung cancer. Radon exposure is apparently a strong candidate for cause #2.

Brainy German Friedrich Ernst Dorn is generally given credit for discovering Radon, in 1900. He called it “Radium Emanation,” though, and later scientists made fun of him for coming up with such a clunky name. Ten years later, Radon was isolated by brainy British guys Sir William Ramsay and Robert Whytlaw-Gray. Sir Ramsey also discovered Neon, Krypton, and Xenon, and was the first person to isolate Helium.  Dude won the Nobel Prize for discovering the Noble Gasses!  No, really, he did! Aside from his work on Radon, Whytlaw-Gray is best remembered for ending up in the hospital after blowing up his lab in an experiment, thus making an important contribution to our modern stereotype of the book-brilliant but comically inept experimental scientist.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Van Dyck v. Van Dongen!

Sir Anthony Van Dyck
1599 - 1641
Dutch; worked in Britain

Crushed by Albrecht Dürer in a tough Round 1 match.
Edged Siennese Master Duccio in First Round Elimination by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Kees Van Dongen
1877 - 1968
Dutch; worked in France

Crushed Dosso Dossi in Round 1
Lost to Florentine sculptor Donatello 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, September 25, 2013

The Free Box Tapes #2: Miles Davis, "Directions"

The second Free Box Tape was, like the first one, kind of mysterious.

It turns out that "Directions" means:

Miles Davis: Directions (1981)

Sixty-Four Words: Wow, a Miles Davis album! There’s a piece by Hector Villa-Lobos! How could it not be great? Except, maybe it isn’t AS great as the other Miles Davis records I’ve been listening to for the last year-and-change, nor anywhere as cohesive. Turns out, it’s a collection of archived material from the late 1960s, packaged as an album a decade later. Ah, that explains things.

Disposition: Miles is Miles. Will retain.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Giorgione v. Giotto!

c. 1477 - 1510

Beat Luca Giordano by a two-vote spread in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!

1267 - 1337

Defeated Giulio Romano 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, September 23, 2013

The Reading List: How the Universe Got Its Spots

How the Universe Got Its Spots

by Janna Levin, 2002

If the title sounds clever and you're not sure why, it's a play on Rudyard Kipling's tale of "How the Leopard Got Its Spots."  The answer to that question is mentioned in passing in this book: there is differentiation in the concentration of chemicals bathing the leopard's skin in utero.  The universe also has spots, which is to say that there is some lumpiness (although not nearly so much as you would think from your day-to-day experience) in the cosmic stuff still spewing "away" (kind of) from the big bang.  The question of where the spots came from turns out to be a little trickier for the universe than it is for the leopard.  Let's just say that small quantum uncertainties within the first bizarrely small fraction of a second of the universe's existence could have galactic-scale implications a few trillion years down the road, and hope that we sound pretty smart and that there are no follow-up questions.

Any follow-up questions?  No?  Good.

The title is actually so clever that it got used even though it doesn't really match the book.  Levin isn't especially interested in how the universe got its spots.  What she's interested in is how observing the patterns in those spots might allow us, if we were stupendously lucky, to determine the shape of the universe and figure out whether it is finite or infinite, and if the latter how infinite.  (Yeah, I know, "how infinite" seems a little dodgy.  She explains it.)  And even if we weren't that lucky, checking out the pattern of spots, particularly in the background microwave radiation that suffuses the cosmos, might at least allow us to weed out some theories and refine others about how this universe we live in works.

By "us," I of course mean brainy physics types.

By "background microwave radiation," I mean a concept in cosmology that Levin explains over the course of her book.  She also explains such scary concepts as relativity -- special and general! -- dimensionality, topology, string theory, and chaos theory.  There are probably plenty of books that try to explain these things, but I doubt any of them are as chatty as this one.  Levin's book, couched as a series of letters to her mother, mixes and matches the concepts that underlie her work with personal stories about the decline and fall of a relationship, what it's like to commute back and forth between California and England, how she furnishes her new apartment, and the like.  It is kind of weird, but if the point was to try to humanize theoretical physics and imply that it can be comprehended by ordinary folks with ordinary problems, it is actually kind of successful.  The bits where Levin anguishes over whether she should get a new apartment or not have the added advantage of requiring very little effort, which lets you build up a good reading head of steam and get some momentum going for when she gets back to the point and ponders the implications of whether the universe is flat, positively curved, or negatively curved.  Like I say, it's kind of weird, but it's also quite readable.

I know just enough about cosmology to know that this book is a bit out of date, but not enough to be able to put my finger on exactly how.  But Levin knew when writing it in 2000 that it would have a fairly short shelf-life, and refers several times to the exciting new information that will be flooding in over the next couple of years from new satellite missions.  Those new satellites are satellites of the past now, of course, and the flood of data that they provided has been fuel to the brisk growth in our astronomical knowledge in the last decade or so.  Did you not know that astronomy was booming?  It is!  Concept for concept, it has probably been the most productive field of human inquiry over the last fifteen years or so.

Prognosis:  How the Universe Got Its Spots is a pretty good book!  I think everybody should make a good-faith effort to get their head around the basics of relativity and quantum physics, too.  It's not like this stuff is particularly new and revolutionary, and it can't hurt to understand how the world works at a very basic level.  Plus, it's interesting.

But the question at hand is, is Spots the right book for the job?  Answer: it's not a bad pick, if you've got a copy available.  If not, there are probably others, maybe newer ones, that could also do the trick.  If you know of any really good ones, leave a pointer in the comments.  The IAT readership craves ever to better understand the physical universe!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The 2013 Michael5000 Top 126

Last year, I unveiled my list of the Division I-A football teams in order of personal enthusiasm.  This is a useful list of helping remember who I am rooting for in any given contest, and I also encourage those of you who don't ordinarily follow college football to use it in allocating your own level of support.  (I also suggested in the comments that it could be viewed as "an intriguing meditation on the nature of human affiliation, identification, and self-construction," but that was probably just Bowl Season exuberance talking.)

Why are we seeing it again?  Well, this is the 2013 update.  Obviously, a list like this can not remain static.  It will respond to public events and personal experiences vis-a-vis the universities involved.  Any ranking according to subjective, multivariate criteria has a certain instability built into it.  Furthermore, you the IAT readership are encouraged to lobby me to share your own football preference, and indeed this can work -- look how the University of Virginia has soared from 105th to 63rd in response to the advocacy of graduate PB! 

Special dispensation will be granted to anyone who can figure out for me how I ended up with two teams in the #84 slot.

A very happy football season to you and yours.

The numbers following many team names refer to "Notes," below.
1. Oregon Ducks (1,2,5,6,8,10)
2. Oregon State Beavers (2,5,6,8,10)
3. Washington Huskies (2,5,6,9,10)
4. Old Dominion Monarchs (7,13) Having arbitrarily decided to like these guys, I'm finding it really works.
5. Stanford Cardinal (4,5,8,11)
6. Oklahoma Sooners (8,10,13)
7. Idaho Vandals (4,6,10,13)
8. California Golden Bears (4,5,6)
9. Utah Utes (4,5,6)
10. UCLA Bruins (5) (+6)
11. Massachusetts Minutemen (3)
12. Boise State Broncos (4,12)
13. USC Trojans (5,12)
14. Washington State Cougars (2,5)
15. Air Force Falcons (14)
16. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15)
17. South Carolina Gamecocks (8,10)
18. Hawaiʻi (Rainbow) Warriors (4,8)
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12)
20. Arizona Wildcats (5,15)
21. Auburn Tigers (7,12)
22. TCU Horned Frogs (8,9;1)
23. Colorado Buffaloes (5,6)
24. San Jose State Spartans (4)
25. SMU Mustangs (12)
26. Michigan Wolverines
27. Arkansas Razorbacks (6)
28. Army Black Knights (10,14)
29. Michigan State Spartans (10)
30. Arizona State Sun Devils (5) 
31. Penn State Nittany Lions (12) 
32. Boston College Eagles (6) rose on recent campus visit
33. San Diego State Aztecs (16)
34. Syracuse Orange(men) (8,9)
35. Fresno State Bulldogs (4) 
36. UTEP Miners (10;1)
37. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7,8)
38. Kansas State Wildcats (6,9,10)
39. Purdue Boilermakers (8)
40. Maryland Terrapins (8)
41. Navy Midshipmen (14
42. Virginia Tech Hokies (10
43. Oklahoma State Cowboys
44. Rice Owls (7,11;1)
45. Temple Owls (17)
46. Missouri Tigers (6)
47. Northwestern Wildcats (9)
48. New Mexico State Aggies (10)
49. Kansas Jayhawks (1)
50. Troy Trojans (7,13)
51. Arkansas State Red Wolves overrated on original list due to confusion with University of Arkansas
52. New Mexico Lobos
53. Tennessee Volunteers (9)
54. Iowa Hawkeyes
55. Ball State Cardinals (7)
56. Georgia Bulldogs (6)
57. North Texas Mean Green (8;1)
58. West Virginia Mountaineers
59. Utah State Aggies (4)
60. Baylor Bears (7,8*;1)
61. Connecticut Huskies (3)
62. East Carolina Pirates (7)
63. Virginia Cavaliers Rating soars on advocacy of reader PB.
64. Colorado State Rams
65. Kent State Golden Flashes (8)
66. Miami of Ohio RedHawks
67. Nevada Wolf Pack (10;2)
68. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12)
69. Minnesota Golden Gophers
70. Ohio Bobcats
71. Alabama Crimson Tide (11) Have looked in heart to find underrated in initial listing
72. North Carolina State Wolfpack
73. Ole Miss Rebels (6)
74. Vanderbilt Commodores (7)
75. Wyoming Cowboys (10)
76. Duke Blue Devils (11)
77. Wisconsin Badgers (6) 
78. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (18)
79. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (18
80. Tulane Green Wave (8,11;1)
81. Clemson Tigers (7)
82. Pittsburgh Panthers
83. Akron Zips (4)
84. Bowling Green Falcons
84. Georgia State Panthers
85. Charlotte 49ers
86. Texas State Bobcats (1)
87. Buffalo Bulls
88. Iowa State Cyclones
89. Kentucky Wildcats
90. UTSA Roadrunners
91. Marshall Thundering Herd (8)
92. Eastern Michigan Eagles
93. Illinois Fighting Illini
94. Indiana Hoosiers
95. North Carolina Tar Heels
96. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8)
97. Toledo Rockets
98. Cincinnati Bearcats
99. Texas Tech Red Raiders (1)
100. Mississippi State Bulldogs
101. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (1)
102. Louisville Cardinals
103. Houston Cougars
104. Memphis Tigers
105. NIU Huskies
106. UAB Blazers
107. Western Michigan Broncos
108. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
109. Texas A&M Aggies (1)
110. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3,4,5)
111. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (1,4)
112. South Alabama Jaguars
113. Texas Longhorns (1,6)
114. South Florida Bulls (1)
115. Florida Atlantic Owls (1)
116. Ohio State Buckeyes (4,5) loses ground on off-season fiasco.
117. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (1)
118. FIU Golden Panthers (1)
119. Central Michigan Chippewas (3)
120. BYU Cougars
121. LSU Tigers (1,3,5)
122. Florida Gators (1,5)
123. UCF Knights (1)
124. Miami Hurricanes (1,5)
125. UNLV Rebels (2)
126. Florida State Seminoles (1,5,6)


(1) Alma Mater
(2) Team is from Oregon or Washington
(3) Team is from New England
(4) General Regional Bias
(5) Member of Pac-12 Conference
(6) Have had pleasant experiences at town or campus
(7) College has amusing name
(8) College has amusing mascot name
(9) Team has appealing purple and/or orange uniforms
(10) College is associated with one or more people I like
(11) College has especially strong academic reputation
(12) Impressed by long-standing or historical excellence of football program
(13) Have arbitrarily decided to be a fan of team
(14) Team represents a military academy
(15) Team is associated with Mrs.5000
(16) Amused by long-standing haplessness of football program
(17) Program is associated with awesome old Bill Cosby comedy routines
(18) College is playing at a level comically "out of its league"

(1) Team is from Florida, Louisiana, or Texas
(2) Team is from Nevada
(3) Have had unpleasant experiences at town or campus.
(4) College has mascot name which, although arguably amusing, gets on my nerves a little
(5) Annoyed by long-standing or historical excellence of football program
(6) Program is associated with annoying fan hand gestures

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Guston v. Hals!

Philip Guston
1913 - 1980


Frans Hals
1581 - 1666


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, September 20, 2013

Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare at the Movies: Much Ado About Nothing (Whedon, 2012)

The Play: Much Ado About Nothing.
Directed by: Joss Whedon, 2012.

Ebert: Roger Ebert, as you probably know, died earlier this year.  I am not usually the kind of person who feels a lot of sadness at the passing of people I do not know personally, but Ebert is an exception.  For many years, he was someone I turned to for a well-expressed intelligent opinion on every movie I saw, and with him gone it feels like I've lost one of those people between acquaintances and friends who you only do one thing with, like a racquetball partner or a running buddy or something.  I've lost the guy who I used to talk with about movies, or rather who used to talk to me about movies.  He never listened to what I had to say, but that was OK; it was just the way we got along.  

Anyway, that's my eulogy for Roger Ebert.  He never registered an opinion on this movie because he died before he could see it.  Sheila O'Malley, minding the store at the website, says "Much Ado About Nothing" is one of the best films of the year, for what that's worth.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84% and, interestingly, the only Shakespeare adaptation where I have noticed a higher audience score (86%) than a critical score.  I believe the audience score for Shakespeare movies is usually abysmal.

Previous Much Ado About Nothing on Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare:
Genre & Setting: Comedy with dark bits. Set by Shakespeare on a Sicilian nobleman’s estate. Whedon films this adaptation in L.A. – in his house, apparently – and although he doesn’t explicitly situate the action geographically, the wardrobe and manners are all affluent Los Angeles.

The Gist, which will obviously involve spoilers: This is the one with Beatrice and Benedic, the witty frenemies who need to be helped to realize that they are in love with each other, and Hero and Claudio, who are going to have the world’s most awkward wedding because of the scheming of John the Bastard. Also, the nutty constables.

The Adaptation: Joss Whedon is an incredibly successful Hollywood guy with enough pull that he could film a Shakespeare production with his pals and coerce it into distribution. Hurrah! It is filmed in beautiful low-budget black and white with a cast of extremely talented actors who simply ooze charisma.

Clocks In At: 108 minutes.

OK, listen, I loved this adaptation. I can’t think of a filmed Shakespeare comedy I’ve enjoyed more. A lot of this had to do with the critical intangibles: attractive actors who can deliver lines impeccably and whom, like the architecture and the landscaping, are pleasant just to look at. My guess is, this creative team could make another movie – ANY other movie – and it would be great. Raw craftsmanship: not very interesting to talk about, but lovely to witness.

But when you bring your Shakespeare to the screen, there are a lot of important directorial decisions involved as well. And Whedon very consistently, I felt, made decisions that strengthened Much Ado for a 2010s audience, retaining and amplifying Shakespeare’s comedy, taking some of the edge off of the disturbing bits, and helping some of the less coherent parts of the story make a little more sense. For instance!
  • Problem: Claudio behaves appallingly to Hero, yet we are clearly supposed to like him. Solution: Claudio is really dim. Not a drooling, unkempt idiot, of course, but just the kind of dim bulb who muddles along in life because people like him. We recognize this from his first moments on screen, because he is well acted as such. He’s very easily led, so he falls for John’s duplicity like six tons of bricks, and although we can’t really endorse his behavior, we can recognize that it’s not his fault that he’s dumb. This aspect of his character is there in the play, but this is the first time I’ve seen it really developed.

  • Problem: Damn, that wedding scene is hard to watch. Solution: As Claudio starts making his scene, there is a very short shot of someone in the household entourage directing all the guests away from the action with a determined “move along, folks, nothing to see here” smile. It’s a note of much-needed comic relief, and by removing the in-play audience it also has the effect of mitigating Hero’s humiliation a little, making it less painful for us in the out-of-play audience. Very helpful.

  • Problem: Those wacky constables really muck up the play. Solution: Don’t have the actors play them as clowns. Instead, just have them be normal humans with slightly exaggerated stupidity. Dogberry is nicely rendered here as the incompetent boss that everyone has had at least once in their life, and because he is more-or-less human normal, the other actors can make their own reactions to him make sense. One of the golden lines in this adaptation, for my money, is Leonato to Dogberry and his assistant: “Drink some wine ere you go.” It’s all in the delivery: an exasperated but determined courtesy to the guy from the security company who is making such a pest of himself while the household is trying to put on a wedding, for crying out loud.

  • Problem: The line "I'll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope" sure isn't funny. Solution: Have Claudio blurt it out right in front of an African-American (African-Sicilian?) woman in the wedding party.  Remember, we've already established that he's kind of an idiot; this little vignette both confirms that for us and lets us get in a laugh at his expense, which we want to do after the way he's behaved.
Then too, there are also some aspects of this particular production that aren’t so much problem-solvers as simply choices of interpretation. A few of my favorites:
  • Who are these people, anyway? In the script, the men are soldiers home from some Italian war or other. But in their suits and California leisure wear, Whelan’s characters have nothing of a military air. They seem very wealthy and very powerful, they are able to hold people prisoner fairly openly in their private residences, and they banter charmingly in the kitchen about how many people they have killed. Are they Mafia? We don’t really know, but the subtle notion that all of these nice people might really not be very nice at all gives the film an interesting edge.

  • Conrade is a chick! Who’s Conrade? Eh, minor male character, usually. Played here as a young, bored Beatnikish woman whose reactions to other characters, often a kind of bored incredulity, are pretty damned amusing. She also contributes to the sexification of the film, which I more or less applaud.

  • Beatrice and Benedic have a past! Turns out there's a reason that they make such a point of not getting along, in this telling at least. This idea is developed in about 45 seconds of non-dialog action before the opening credits, and as flashback over four lines of Beatrice’s dialog. This idea is problem-solving in a way, but I don’t think the question of why B & B are the way they are really qualified as a "problem," so I’m filing it under “interesting directorial interpretation.”

  • My Goodness these people drink a lot: I’m not sure what to think of this, although it is certainly an intentional aspect of the movie. Maybe it is intended to invoke an atmosphere of carnival, maybe it is parody of the affluent L.A. social scene, or maybe it’s intended to help explain why the characters act a little irrationally. But damn!

  • Much ado about noting: For Shakespearean audiences, the title of this play was apparently a pun referring to the overhearings and eavesdroppings that are at the heart of the Beatrice and Benedic story. Building on this, perhaps, Whelan brings our collective contemporary nervousness about surveillance to the table. Characters are “noted” not just by each other but by CCT cameras, cell phone video, and, for much of the back half of the film, an omnipresent wedding photographer who, in one quiet non-dialog moment, turns her huge lens on us – the real audience – and takes a picture. Smile!
Prognosis: I could talk all day about this one, but I've probably already overstayed my welcome. I loved it. I haven’t had so much fun in a movie theater in a long time. Maybe you’d like it too!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Dossi v. Dubuffet!

Dosso Dossi
c.1490 - 1542

Lost by a wide margin to the colorful Kees Van Dongen in Round 1.
Put the hurt on Domenichino in First Round Elimination.

Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985

Beat Siennese master Duccio by a two-vote swing in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Whupped on by Albrecht Dürer 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, September 18, 2013

The Wednesday Post

Over Cs Postage
Cimabue, Correggio, and Copley make their philatelic farewell


Cimabue’s style provided the firm foundation upon which rested the art of Giotto and Duccio in the 14th century, although he was superseded in his own lifetime by these artists, both of whom he had influenced and perhaps trained. His great contemporary, Dante, recognized the importance of Cimabue and placed him at the forefront of Italian painters. Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Most Eminent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects… (1550), begins his collection of biographies with the life of Cimabue. Art historiographers from the 14th century to the present have recognized the art and career of Cimabue as the dividing line between the old and the new traditions in western European painting.  -- Encyclopedia Britannica

Cimabue garnered 4 votes against 22, going 0-2 and leaving the Tournament in May 23.


Born Antonio Allegri, Correggio was named after the town of his birth. His ability to manipulate light and shade to create luminous atmospheric effects resulted in some of the most sumptuous religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Giorgio Vasari, a sixteenth-century biographer of artists, wrote, "everything that is to be seen by his hand is admired as something divine." Born Antonio Allegri, Correggio was named after the town of his birth. His ability to manipulate light and shade to create luminous atmospheric effects resulted in some of the most sumptuous religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Giorgio Vasari, a sixteenth-century biographer of artists, wrote, "everything that is to be seen by his hand is admired as something divine...." Correggio inspired future generations of artists as diverse as the Carracci family, Rubens, and Boucher.  -- The Getty Museum

Correggio accumulated 8 votes for and 19 against, leaving the Tournament in June with an 0-2 record.

John Singleton Copley
Copley was the greatest and most influential painter in colonial America, producing about 350 works of art. With his startling likenesses of persons and things, he came to define a realist art tradition in America. His visual legacy extended throughout the nineteenth century in the American taste for the work of artists as diverse as Fitz Henry Lane and William Harnett. In Britain, while he continued to paint portraits for the elite, his great achievement was the development of contemporary history painting, which was a combination of reportage, idealism, and theatre. --

Mr. Copley went 1-2 in our Tournament, putting 13 positive votes against 22 negative.  He left us in August.