Monday, March 31, 2014

The Avatar reaches the Tri-State Area

You've probably been wondering where the running Avatar has been, lately.  Well, that's a bit of an overstatement, I suppose.  You probably don't give two hoots where the running Avatar has been, lately.  But I'm going to tell you just the same.  So be polite, and nod when I pause.

Until a few days ago, the Avatar spent the last three months in Montana.  Now, it's important to realize that Montana is really, really big.  REALLY big.  Here it is (in purple), for instance, compared at the same scale with a randomly-selected East Coast state, Rhode Island (in lime green):

I bring this up only because the distance I've run since the last time I checked in, on December 30th, looks kind of pathetic at Montana scale:

But actually, that's 247 miles worth of running, which is not bad for a mortal with a full-time job and daily blogging responsibilities.  I'm writing this with a day left in the running quarter, so I expect to end up just slightly over 250 miles for the first fourth of the year.  That's about 70 miles better than I've ever done for January, February, and March, and is ominously on pace for the reckless 1000-mile goal I set for 2014, after falling way short of my 960-mile goal for 2013.  I enjoy running, and so does the Avatar.

Here's how it looks from where he stands, as of yesterday.

After running in 13 different states in 2013, my pie chart for 2014 is kind of boring so far.

The Avatar sends greetings from the eastern edge of Idaho, and hopes you are doing well!  He'll check in again soon!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Kelly v. Kiefer!

Ellsworth Kelly
Born 1923


Anselm Kiefer
Born 1945


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 28, 2014

The Free Box Tapes #5: Joe Farrell and Randy Brecker, "Together," except actually not

Since the fifth Free Box Tape was a bona fide commercially packaged cassette tape, I didn't expect to have to do any, like, investigating.  

From the cover, you'd have to think that this was the album Together, by Joe Farrell and Randy Brecker. 

But it ain't.  I wouldn't have noticed a thing, actually, if I hadn't been planning to write that the album features funk and disco sounds that were only used for a few years in the mid-1970s, but then decided to check for a copyright date to hedge my bet.

Copyright 1985?!?  There was no guitarist alive that would have used the um-chakka-um sound in 1985.  So I looked the record up in the massive database, and found that, well, it didn't exist.  That was weird.  I put in a few of the song names, and I kept getting results for somebody named Michael Longo.  That was weird, too.  

Then I looked at those liner notes.  There are five musicians listed on the cover, but a sixth -- Michael Longo -- is listed under "personnel" (we say "human resources" these days).  And then notice the song credits: M. Longo wrote all six of them.  A few more clicks confirmed it: what we have here is the 1975 Michael Longo Album 900 Shares of the Blues, doing business under not just a different title, but as the work of other artists.  There's a boring story in there, somewhere.

"Joe Farrell/Randy Brecker: Together (1985)," which is actually Michael Longo: 900 Shares of the Blues (1975)

Sixty-Four Words: Because it features funk and disco sounds that were used widely for a few years in the mid-1970s and thereafter scrupulously avoided, you instantly recognize this album’s context. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. The music conspicuously aims at being jazz with a contemporary feel, but the moment has passed. Perhaps unfairly, it is hard not to see the music as past its sell-date.

Disposition: Unraveling the weird misattribution of this tape's packaging has somehow made me kind of fond of it. It shouldn't matter, but it does. I'll hang on to it, for now.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #25/64

Faceoff #1: Hilliard v. Hobbema

Nicholas Hilliard
c. 1547 - 1619

Lost to American Edward Hicks in Round 1.


Meindert Hobbema
1638 - 1706

Lost to Andō Hiroshige in Round 1.

Faceoff #2: Hodgkin v. Hofmann

Howard Hodgkin
Born 1932

Lost to David Hockney in Round 1.


Hans Hofmann
1880 - 1966
German; worked internationally

Beaten by Ferdinand Hodler 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 26, 2014

The Wednesday Post

The California Lifestyle, part 1
Are having a nice time and enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

ANIMAL COLOR SERIES From the San Diego Zoo
Okapi -- Eastern Belgian Congo

Hi.  Well we made it out here O.K.  It was wonderfull to fly.  Hope you have your baby by now.  I got a bad cold.  See you all soon.  Love, Gran and Gramp.

Pot-bellied stove and hanging chandeliers set the mood of Upjohn's old-fashioned drugstore in Disneyland.  Store is replica of an estabishment of the 1880's.

Loved every minute of this.  Will start for Texas Monday by Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns.  Love, Hattie

These choice and luscious berries excel in the warm coastal climate and sandy loam soil of the area.  Many hundreds of acres are in production along the Calif. coast at Oceano, Grover City, Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria

This well-known tree stands in the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees.  The tunnel through its was cut in 1881.  The size of the tree is apparent from comparison with the automobile.

Dear Marine -- We are on a [??] vacation, in Cal.  Are having a nice time and enjoying the beautiful sunshine.  It was 110 here to-day.  Love Herb & Esther

Way back in 1881 a hardy group of immigrant families from the famous wine-growing regions of Northern Italy and Switzerland established their famous colony at Asti.  Cuttings of the choicest European vines were brought over, and planted.  Asti proved the ideal location for their winery because within a short eleven years its wines, entered in international competition, had won gold medals for excellence.

Hi!  Just starting out on a 2 week camping trip to Vancouver.  Wow have we been looking forward to it!  Stopped for a little wine at lunch -- are you coming out this way?  Look to hear from you - see how ya doing.  love from both of us, Jani & Foxie

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 3: van Gogh v. El Greco!

Vincent van Gogh
1853 - 1890
Dutch; worked in France

Beat up on Hugo van der Goes in Round 1.
Got past Natalia Gontcharova in Round 2.

El Greco
1541 - 1614
Greek; worked in Italy and Spain

Defeated Florentine master Benozzo Gozzoli in Round 1 in a contest that went down to the last vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Tied with Francisco Goya in Round 2. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!
Stunned Paul Gauguin in a lopsided Round 2 tiebreaker.

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.

Esoteric Bracket Mechanics: Five Ties

Occasionally, the convoluted rules and strangely small voting population of this enterprise result in situations complicated enough that they get their own posts.  These are provided for the three or four bracket enthusiasts to dork out on.  Understanding this sort of thing is not necessary to vote, let alone enjoy the art!

Today's situation is a cluster of cascading ties in the Second Round.  It all started with this January 2013 match:


Nothing much happened with that until August, when another Second Round tie happened:


Daumier clobbered Gainsborough in the top tiebreaker, but in the lower match David and Gauguin fought their way to another tie.  

Meanwhile, though, Goya and El Greco had run into a tie of their own.  At this point, the spot on the brackets that had originally been for the Gainsborough/Gauguin match now held the David/Gauguin tie, and another round of tiebreakers could pair off the "top" artists and the "bottom" artists:


El Greco

In the bottom tiebreaker, El Greco got away from Gauguin (1-1-1) and will progress along the same path he would have traveled if he had beaten Goya in the first place.  In the upper tiebreaker, however, Goya and David... tied.

So!  Daumier and El Greco progress with records of 2-0-1!  Gauguin (1-1-2) and Gainsborough (1-1-1) hope for better things in the Left Brackets.  The old Gainsborough/Gauguin bracket slot looks like this:


...with Goya (1-0-2!) and David (1-0-3!) waiting for the next Second Round tie.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March's Element of the Month: Strontium!

March's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 87.62
Melting Point: 777 °C
Boiling Point: 1377 °C

Strontium is a more common element than you'd expect here on the Earth's crust, considering that you don't know the first thing about it.  It's generally ranked as about the 15th or 16th most common crustal element at around 360 parts per million, which makes it about as common as sulfur.  It ain't one of the Big Eight, but it's definitely a major-minor.

There are two reasons you don't know anything about it.  The first is that you have the parochial mindset of the human community, which finds Strontium almost useless.  Once upon a time, it was used in the extraction of beet sugar, and later it was important in cathode-ray tubes.  Its compounds are still used to produce bright reds in pyrotechnics, and in speciality toothpastes, and it is occasionally used in outrageously specialized alloys.  But at the end of the day, it's an element that we could probably manage without.  Literally!  It doesn't have a biological role.  But as interesting as it would be to see what would happen to the planet if all its Strontium was spontaneously removed, I don't think I'd want to be riding when the experiment was conducted.  But I digress.

The other reason you don't know from Strontium is that it is one of those hyperreactive elements that can't stand up to a stiff breeze.  A silvery metal (of course) in its pure form, it immediately turns yellow if exposed to the open air -- kind of like iron turning orange, but much, much faster.  Indeed, if it has been ground to a fine powder it will rust so fast that it bursts into open flame.  It also reacts to water in much the same way that an Alka-Seltzer tablet does.  My point is, surface conditions here on Sol III are just not right for Strontium to be present in its elemental form.  It is diffused throughout the crust.

The Centerfold!

Pure metallic Strontium, preserved in Argon so it doesn't get all oxidized.
Strontium was first recognized as a potential element by a couple of doctors looking for Barium in the Scottish town of Strontian.  After any number of learned men had poked and prodded at the Strontian ore in that charming Enlightenment fashion, it was the irrepressible Sir Humphry Davy who finally isolated the elemental stuff, in 1808, and who definitively named it after the village where it had first been found.  If this raised any hopes that Strontian would be the Scottish Ytterby, they would not pan out, and to this day Strontian remains a one-element village.

I suppose I should mention Strontium-90, a fakey isotope that was among the more problematic components of fallout from atomic bomb testing, the Chernobyl incident, and so on.  Since Strontium is chemically similar to Calcium, sitting right below it on the periodic chart, it is easily incorporated into your bones, which is really not where you want a radioactive source.  The bad news is that there's no avoiding this environmental Strontium-90, which is just as reactive as any other Strontium and so moves with ease through the structure of the planet and its biota.  The good news, though, is that since we're not really testing atomic weapons for the nonce, the ambient level of environmental Strontium-90 drops, according to my seat-of-the-pants math, about a percent and a quarter every year.  That's right, good news about the health of the environment!  You're welcome.

German artist Gerhard Richter has created Strontium, a large-scale mural for the new de Young derived from digitally-manipulated photographs, that together form a geometric black and white motif representing the atomic structure of strontium titanate, a synthetic substance often used to create artificial diamonds. The monumental piece is constructed of 130 digital prints, each one measuring 27-1/2-x 37-1/4 inches, mounted on aluminum with plexiglass coating. It spans a total of 31 x 29.86 feet and is installed in Wilsey Court, the de Young's central public gathering space.

     - Website of the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Fransisco.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Kapoor v. Kauffmann!

Anish Kapoor
b. 1954


Angelica Kauffmann
1741 - 1807
Austrian; worked internationally


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 21, 2014

The Free Box Tapes #4: Oliver Jones and Herbie Hancock

The fourth Free Box Tape had the yellow case liner of Memorex in the early 90s.  

The tape itself was perhaps a decade older.

Oliver Nelson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961) b/w Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1965)

Sixty-Four Words: It was handy to have two Jazz Thing contenders land in my lap, but although the Oliver Nelson was OK, I was cool on the Herbie Hancock. Too, the tape drags – you never could trust the 90 minute cassettes – and it has filler tracks that I don’t like. The label doesn’t say what they are. The guy who made the tape probably just knew.

Disposition: I will see if Mrs.5000 wants to try it in her little collection of tapes in the basement.  If that doesn't fly, I guess that its tenure with me was just a short stopover on the way to the landfill.  Holler if you want it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Play-In Artist SubTournament: Phase 2, Flight 6

In Phase 2, you may cast votes for up to TWO artists.  One vote per artist per person.
Phase 2, Flight 6 will be open until April 25, 2014.

#1 Jean Baptiste Oudry
1686 - 1755

Finished First in Phase 1, Flight 9, with a voting score of 1.000.

#12 Nicholas Roerich
1874 - 1947

Finished Second in Phase 1, Flight 5, with a voting score of .769.

#13 Geertgen tot Sint Jans
1465 - 1495

Placed Second in Phase 1, Flight 3, with a voting score of .750.

#23 Andres Amador
b. 1971

Tied for Second place in Phase 1, Flight 7, with a voting score of .688.

#25 Saul Steinburg
1914 - 1999
Romanian; worked in the United States

Tied for Second Place in Phase 1, Flight 8, with a voting score of .636.

#36 Sharon Johnstone

Tied for Third in Phase 1, Flight 4, with a voting score of .467.

#38 Lois Dodd
b. 1927

Tied for Third in Phase 1, Flight 12, with a voting score of .462.

Vote for up to two artists! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. This poll will be open for approximately one and a half months past posting.