Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Wednesday Post

Greetings from the Colorado Plains!
The Avatar checks in.

The running Avatar picked up a postcard in Otis, Colorado, the last town he ran through this year.  It's a little dated, but it gives you a feel for the landscape.

The Avatar and I, despite a woefully torpid December, finally staggered our way to a 1000-mile running year.  Woo!  For me this of course involved a lot of running in Oregon, where I live:

For the Avatar, there was a whole lot of running in Wyoming:

Yes, that is 1000 miles.  Wyoming is big.

The Avatar's run has now taken him to 44 counties in seven states.  On the map, purple is 2012, blue is 2013, and green is 2014.

He's also well over a third across the country.  As we zoom out for the perspective, the little red and yellow dots represent counties that the Avatar has been to that I, the actual Michael5000, have NOT been to:

Where to now?  East!  East!  To Kansas, and beyond!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Lippi v. Lissitzky!

Fra Filippo Lippi
1406ish - 1469

Beat his own son in Round 1.

El Lissitzky
1890 - 1941

Defeated 15th century German Stefan Lochner 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, December 29, 2014

The New Monday Quiz III

No special occasion today -- back to the general knowledge!

1. I removed the name of the artist of L'Inverno from this 1977 Italian stamp.  What was the name of this quirky 16th century painter?

2. In one play, he says:
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
And in another, he says:
I am dying, Egypt, dying; only
I here impórtune death a while, until
Of many thousand kisses the poor last
I lay upon thy lips.
Who is he?

3. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore directs some military action in this still from imdb's 45th best film of all time. What is the name of the 1979 movie?

4. As the bishop of Hippo -- an important North African city, until it was sacked and destroyed in 698 A.D. -- this guy became a leading figure in Christian theology, developing ideas like divine grace, original sin, and the notion that Christians should be focused on "the City of God" rather than secular, earthly concerns.  What's was his name?

5. This map shows the administrative regions and major towns of what country?

6. Element #51, symbolized Sb, is a silver-grey metal that used to be commonly confused with lead, back in the old days.  What's its name?

7. It's 1918, and most of these young British men are presumably delighted as they listen to an announcement of the ________________.

8. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And as this novel opens, Price Oblonsky is unhappy that he has been caught fooling around with the governess and has to sleep on the couch.

9. This sign is in Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically-distinct region that has legally been part of Azerbaijan since that country's independance in 1991, but which has never actually been integrated into that country.   You might recall a war being fought over this matter.  Anyway, what language is the red part of the sign in?

10. Inspired by a didactic novel by Friedrich Nietzsche, it's actually a fairly long tone poem. The interesting bit is the first minute or so, which we usually think of it as the theme from 2001 - A Space Odyssey.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament Round 1: Malevich v. Man Ray!

Kasimir Malevich
1878 - 1935


Man Ray
1890 - 1976
American; worked in France


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, December 26, 2014

Saint of the Month: St. Stephen

Paulo Uccello, The Stoning of Saint Stephen, c. 1435.

St. Stephen

AKA: St. Stephen the Martyr, Stephen the Deacon, the Protomartyr.
Not to be Confused With: St. Stephen I, St. Stephen Bellesini, St. Stephen du Bourg, St. Stephen of Apt, St. Stephen of Catania, St. Stephen of Corbie, St. Stephen of Corvey, St. Stephen of Grandmont, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Stephen of Lyons, St. Stephen of Muret, St. Stephen of New Ross, St. Stephen of Obazine, St. Stephen of Reggio, St. Stephen of Rieti, St. Stephen of Sweden, St. Stephen the Younger, St. Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski.
Feast Day: December 26.

Really Existed? He is discussed as some length in the Book of Acts.
Timeframe: Contemporary of Jesus Christ.
Place: Jerusalem.

Credentials: Recognized by tradition.
Martyrdom: Stoned to death.

Patron Saint of: brickmakers, stonemasons, casket makers, deacons, headaches, horses, .
Symbolism: Rocks.

Good King Wenceslas famously looked out on the Feast of Stephen, and that means December 26th if he was looking out according to the Western Church calendar, or the 27th if the Eastern. But who is this Saint Stephen of whom we speak? Not the first king of Hungary, although he has a holiday connection too: he is said to have been crowned on Christmas Day in the year 1000. But we're talking here about a much earlier Saint Stephen.

This Saint Stephen is the "protomartyr," the first person on record as having been killed for his profession of Christianity. Does that make him the first saint? It does not. "Who was the first saint?" turns out to be a surprisingly sticky wicket, because the rules of what constitutes a saint are so shot through with exceptions. For instance, if you started to define a saint as "A person who..." you would already have run afoul of a few non-persons, such as St. Michael the Archangel. But suffice to say that Saint Stephen is indeed the first of one important type of saint, the holy person who is martyred for his or her faith.

We find Saint Stephen in Chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Acts, the Biblical account of the extremely early Christian church. He is one of the new religion's most successful representatives in Jerusalem.  Competing religious leaders, jealous of his popularity, frame him on a blasphemy charge and have him hauled in before the Sanhedrin, or rabbinical court. He delivers a rather folksy overview of Jewish history that ends suddenly in a rebuke to people who don't recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, and then claims to have a vision of Jesus and God standing together in heaven. This either outrages the crowd or gives them the pretext they've been looking for, and they grab him, drag him outside the city walls, and throw rocks at him until he dies.

I bet you thought it was going to be Romans doing the persecuting. Indeed, only the Roman administration had the legal authority to execute a death sentence, for what that's worth. But the Romans aren't mentioned at all; it seems to be rank and file Judeans throwing the rocks in what you might call an ad hoc extrajudicial proceeding.

Like many unspeakably cruel practices, stoning a guy to death is kind of hard work, and it seems it's something you take off your outer layer for. The Biblical account says the crowd "laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." Saul will eventually become the very important evangelist renamed Paul, but in the moment he approves of the stoning and jumps right in to take part in the abuse of Jerusalem's Christians that flares up after Stephen's death. This pogrom is hard on the nascent Church, but as converts flee persecution, "those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Indirectly, then, the death of Saint Stephen sets off the first spread of Christianity outside its original hometown.  This, along with his status as the first martyr and his story being right there in the New Testament, make him a major saint throughout all Christian traditions that venerate saints.

Rembrandt's treatment, painted 190 years after Uccello's, is more dynamic, dimensional, detailed, and expressive,
and utilizes a much broader range of light and dark for dramatic effect.  Yet, it also shows us that these things
do not in themselves automatically make for a more interesting painting, and that Rembrandt didn't
make a masterpiece every time he picked up a brush.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Round Three: van der Goes v. Giacometti!

Hugo van der Goes, after getting knocked around by one of the icons of modern art in Round One, has been kicking back hard at modernism ever since.  Now he has another chance!  Will he knock down one of the biggest names in twentieth century sculpture?  Or will Giacometti regain the momentum he lost in last December's contest with Giotto?  Your vote counts!

Hugo van der Goes
1440 - 1482

Alberto Giacometti
1901 - 1966
Swiss; worked in Paris
  • Scorched Florentine sculptor Giambologna in Round 1
  • Walloped Harold Gilman in Round 2.
  • Lost to Giotto in Round 3.


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.

The Stamp Advent

The 2014 Stamp Advent Calendar
December 25

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Cad

X: Angry With Father

I am just SO mad at my father right now!

He said that I'm the only person in town who can't see what's going on with the Christmas Cad. What is that supposed to mean?

He won't even let me invite him over for Christmas. When I asked why, he said "we don't have enough eggnog for the whole police department." Sometimes I have no idea what Daddy's talking about.

I think people are just jealous because my Cad is such a handsome, wonderful dancer!

This whole thing is making me feel like a great big scrooge.

    The Stamp Advent

    The 2014 Stamp Advent Calendar
    December 24

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014

    The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Adams v. Liotard!

    Ansel Adams
    1902 - 1994

    Tied for First place in Phase 1, Flight 4, with a voting score of .733.
    Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 1 of the Play-In Tournament with a voting score of .417.
    Survived the Phase 2 Tiebreaker.
    Held on to beat John Constable in Round 1.

    Jean-√Čtienne Liotard
    1702 - 1789

    Defeated sculptor Jacques Lipchitz 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.

    The Stamp Advent

    The 2014 Stamp Advent Calendar
    December 23

    Monday, December 22, 2014

    The New Monday Quiz, Brimming O'er with Yuletide Cheer!

    This quiz guaranteed 100% free of questions about gift quantities in "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

    1. What is one supposed to do on Boxing Day?

    2. How do we usually translate "O Tannenbaum" into English? How about "Adeste Fideles"? How about "In Dulce Jubilo"?

    3. David Sedaris' "The Santaland Diaries" is a mostly-true account of his brief career as what?

    4. What was George Washington up to on Christmas Night, 1776?

    5. It was written in 1857 for the American Thanksgiving holiday, and was for some time considered a mildly racy drinking song. Today, it is an extremely well-known Christmas song. It is no longer considered racy. Sing it while you type the answer.

    6. Christmas trees were initially a regional Protestant custom in a small area of Germany's Rhineland. Then they went viral. During what century did Christmas trees become popular throughout the Christmas-celebrating world?

    7. On Christmas 1989, the notorious couple shown here would be subjected to a sham trial and then summarily executed. Hey, wait, this question isn't cheery! Well, too late. Who were they?

    8. And who should be upon that ship, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day, and who should be upon that ship, on Christmas Day in the morning?

    9. According to the Biblical account, three wise men follow a star to Judea at some point after the birth of Jesus, hoping to meet a new Messiah. Who is it that tips them off to look in Bethlehem?

    10. Truth, or Michael5000-style nonsense? By tradition, St. Francis of Assisi staged the first nativity scene in 1223 in an attempt to refocus the Christmas holiday away from feasting and gift-giving and back on Christian worship. 

    The Stamp Advent

    The 2014 Stamp Advent Calendar
    December 22

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

    The Infinite Art Tournament Round 1: Ely v. Dobson!

    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.


    William Dobson
    1610 - 1646

    Tied with Theo Van Doesburg in his first try at the First Round, back in December 2012.


    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.