Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Wednesday Post

Continuity and Change in the American Southwest
It offered a good vantage point, protection and spring water.

LAND OF ENCHANTMENT which we find out what's happening these days at the sites of last week's boring postcards!

New Mexico still exists and is still the "Land of Enchantment."  We checked, just to make sure:

It is no longer the second-youngest state, however.  It's the fourth-youngest.

3830 East Van Buren  275-8541
"America's Fastest Growing Motel Chain"

Imperial '400' is no longer America's fastest growing motel chain.  Indeed, the chain no longer exists.  Founded in 1959 by Los Angeles developer Bernard Whitney, the chain built or franchised more than 150 motels across the Southwest over the next five years.  It may well really have been the fastest growing chain in the rapidly changing motel industry of its time, and indeed, it expanded right past the point of sustainable cash flow and straight into bankruptcy court by only 1964.  A series of sell-offs eventually landed the remnants in a Luxembourg-based holding company - you really can't make this shit up - and under that aegis, whatever assets were still intact appear to have been split up and sold to the highest bidder.

This particular Imperial '400' Motel no longer exists.  On its site is a light-industrial building housing businesses like Az Metals, Innopac Vaccuum Equipment Sales, Specialty Awning, and Arizona Specialty Foods.

The Imperial '400' Motel's old telephone number now belongs to a woman named Rosa.


The Tijeras Canyon still exists.

The status of U.S. Highway 66 is surprisingly ambiguous.  By the time this postcard was sent, the major road through Tijeras Canyon was Interstate 40, and that is probably the road that is actually pictured on the card.  A smaller access highway, New Mexico 333, is named "Route 66" and as far as I have been able to find out follows the original U.S. 66 roadbed.  It is however only a two-lane road.

Here's Tierjas Canyon from the Interstate:

And from old U.S. 66, looking in the same direction from a few hundred meters to the left:

Kit Carson's Cave near Gallup, New Mexico.  Looking out of the cave you see the country as Kit Carson saw it in the 1860's where he sheltered his men while rounding up Navajo Indians for the long walk to Bosque Redondo.

I had never heard of Kit Carson "rounding up Navajo Indians for the long walk to Bosque Redondo," and when I posted the card I thought it was some sort of garden-variety Wild West hijink that would end with a stagecoach robbery, an exchange of trade goods, or maybe a hanging or two.  It turns out, unfortunately, that Carson was carrying out a gruesome program of ethnic cleansing against the Navajo on behalf of the Territory of New Mexico. 

Kit Carson's Cave still exists.  In a footnote to their 1988 Kit Carson: A Pattern for Heros, Thelma S. Guild & Harvey L. Carter (who point out that Carson was only following orders and that he was much more involved with capturing Indians than he was with actually killing them), we read that "Unfortunately, hatred of Carson remains strong among the Navajos and the Apaches.  The Kit Carson Cave near Church Rock, New Mexico, had been vandalized and was closed to the public in 1979."

Thirty five years later, the cave appears (at this distance) to be a popular and relatively depoliticized nature hike destination.  It is a State of New Mexico historic site.  Here is its offical description, in toto: "While scouting for the Army in its campaign against the Navajo in 1864, Kit Carson camped in this vast sandstone cave. It offered a good vantage point, protection and spring water."

night cat 1999
acrylic on canvas
23 1/2' x 19 1/2"

The painting "Night Cat" still exists. It is not, as I had naively imagined, a piece of local Phoenix coffee house art.  It is rather a relatively well-known work by the prominent Japanese painter Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959).  Night Cat was auctioned by Christie's in 2003 for $62,140, around four times the pre-auction estimated valuation, and appears to be held in a private collection at this time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Play-In Artist SubTournament: Phase 2 TIEBREAKER

The Play-In Sub-Tournament is almost over!!!  

But not quite.  Although Flights 3 through 6 produced clean results, sending a first and second place winner on to the big show, the first two flights both had a first place winner followed by a three-way tie for second.

In this Tiebreaker Flight, we bring those six tied second-placers back for one last chance at glory!  We will use the familiar Flight Two rules:
    • You can vote for two artists.
    • One vote per artist per person.  No "both of my votes for X."
But this time, there's a catch: to avoid long farcical successions of tiebreak rounds, any pertinent ties will be resolved by seeding order.   
  • Example: Jansen, DeMuth, and Saendredam tie for second.  In this case, Jansen will advance to the main Tournament because he is the highest seed, and it's just tough beans for DeMuth and Saendredam.  
  • Seeding strength, since you ask, is determined by the product of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 voting scores.

The Phase 2 TIEBREAKER Flight will be open only until Friday, May 23.

#1 Ansel Adams
1902 - 1984

Tied for First in Phase 1, Flight 4, with a voting score of .733.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 1, with a voting score of .417.

#2 Thomas Hart Benton
1889 - 1975

Finished First in Phase 1, Flight 10, with a voting score of .818.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 2, with a voting score of .364.

#3 Theo Jansen
born 1948

Finished Second in Phase 1, Flight 5, with a voting score of .692.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 1, with a voting score of .417. 

#4 Giovanni di Paolo
c. 1403-1482

Tied for Third in Phase 1, Flight 10, with a voting score of .636.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 1, with a voting score of .417. 

#5 Charles DeMuth
1883 - 1935

Tied for Second in Phase 1, Flight 11, with a voting score of .727.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 2, with a voting score of .364.

#6 Pieter Saenredam
1597 - 1665

Placed Third in Phase 1, Flight 3, with a voting score of .583.
Tied for Second in Phase 2, Flight 2, with a voting score of .364.

Vote for up to two artists! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Klimt v. Kline!

Gustav Klimt
1862 - 1918


Franz Kline
1910 - 1962


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, April 25, 2014

Michael5000's "Mini Metro" Walkthrough

This week drschnell wrote to tell me about "Mini Metro."  It's a little game that combines the visual elegance of modern transit mapping, interesting puzzles loosely based on the real-world challenges of transportation planning, a simple and intuitive interface, and a grinding sense of relentless entropy and impending failure.  It's very good!

I start a new game at 8:53 p.m. with three transit stations, each starting to accumulate people who would rather be at some other transit station.

I create my first rail line, the Red Line, to connect them, 1-2-3, and people start to move.  But immediately, other stations start popping up.  I don't build them, mind you; they pop up of their own volition.  By 8:55, only two minutes into the game, I've build a Green Line to connect three new stations to my network and a circular Purple Line to keep traffic moving.  I've taken 26 people to where they wanted to go.  And already another station over to the east needs my attention.

Only one minute later, 8:56, and I've more than doubled the number of people I've delivered.  I've extended the Red Line to the new station, and created a Blue Line to another new station east of the river.  I'm deliberately overbuilding at this point, using all of the tunnels and lines at my disposal, because I know that I can freely modify them later.  Indeed, none of my first four lines are going to remain in much like their original form.  The most important feature that has emerged in these first few minutes is the interchange point where the lines that cross over the eastern river -- the East River, I suppose -- meet.  That station will be a very efficient transfer point, until eventually it stops being efficient and wipes me out.

Three more minutes pass, and it's now 8:59.  The map continues to pull back and show a wider area in which I must constantly connect to more stations.  So... many... stations...  There are three more in the east and two more on the west.  The Green Line is no longer connected to any of its original stations.  Instead, it runs out of a single massive hub serving all six lines, including a brand new Orange circular line.

The next three minutes are relatively quiet, but keep adding new challenges just the same.  An awkwardly placed new station appears to the southwest.  Rather than try to distort the Green Line, I get an extra tunnel -- which means not being able to get a new train -- and rework the Purple Line completely.  The Orange Line is expanded, and the Red Line rerouted to pick up some of the stations that the Purple Line used to serve.There are now two very strong hubs in place... and yet another new station that needs to be served.

Another three minutes, and that new station, now incorporated into the Orange Line, is on the brink of losing the game for me.  It has a gazillion passengers waiting, which is not OK.

Now, there's a reason for this.  The Orange Line runs clockwise, and always leaves that massive west-side hub completely full; therefore, it is never able to pick up passengers at the next station.  They are starting to pile up.  Given this kind of problem, I like to have time to think about what I'm going to do to solve it.  Plus, as I build and tweak my system, I get a little attached to it.  I like to sit back, watch the trains run, and feel like I've done my part for the urban organism.  And this is why I don't like Mini Metro as much as I might: by the time a problem evolves, you really only have a few seconds to react to it, and meanwhile YET MORE STATIONS ARE ALWAYS DEMANDING CONNECTION.

A minute later, I have improvised a fix with a short Yellow Line.  It brings in the new station, relieves pressure on the problem station, and makes an attempt at relieving pressure from the east-side junction as well.  In the long run -- a few minutes, that is -- it's probably just going to cause trouble by depositing extra people at this increasingly weak link.

It's 9:08 p.m., I've been playing for 15 minutes, and things are getting a little desperate.   I've extended the Yellow and Red Lines to absorb new stations to the east.  Making the lines longer means that their trains pull into any given station less often, which means that passengers have more time to stack up.  Partly because of this, it's getting a little crazy at the two focal hubs, so I build a Brown Line connecting just them and yet another random new station.  It seems like a good idea at the time....

...but it isn't, really.  Any pressure it takes off of one crowded hub is just dropped off at the other crowded hub a few seconds later.  It would have been fun and interesting to think through a better solution, but I only had a few seconds to work with.  Because by now it is 9:10, and my eastern hub is getting too crowded for the good people of the city to tolerate.

Alas, my game is over.

My assessment for drschnell: "OK, that's kind of great up to a point, but that point comes too early.  When I build a transport system, I want to tinker, improve, manage, curate, and otherwise fuss with it.  But I don't so much like transit systems, and games, where THE CLOCK IS TICKING AND RELENTLESS DOOM IS BUILDING AND ALL YOU CAN DO IS HOLD OUT UNTIL OVERWHELMED.  Of course, the possibility exists that I'm just playing badly."

drschnell's rebuttal: "I think it’s important for games I play to have a building up of relentless doom, and an eventual, unavoidable end, because otherwise, I’m far too willing to tinker and improve and manage and curate, and then am likely to look up and notice that it is, in fact, now next Tuesday."

Both of us, despite being grown men with jobs and responsibilities, have slapped down three bucks to preorder an expanded version with lots of bells and whistles. One bell, or perhaps it's a whistle, is something called "infinite-play zen mode."  That sounds like it will suit me to a tee.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #26/64

Faceoff #1: Beauneveu v. Hogarth

André Beauneveu
active 1361, died c.1402

Tied with Domenico Beccafumi in his initial Round 1 outing, in January 2012.
Lost to Remedios Varo in a second shot at Round 1.


William Hogarth
1697 - 1764

Lost to Katsushika Hokusai in Round 1 by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Faceoff #2: Holbein v. van Honthorst

Hans Holbein
1497ish - 1543
German; worked in Britain

Lost to Homer in Round 1.


Gerrit van Honthorst
1590 - 1656

Beaten by Pieter De Hooch 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.