Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Masolino v. Massys!

1383 - c.1433


Quentin Massys
1465ish - 1530


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, February 27, 2015

The Songs of the Fifty States: North Carolina!

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

Ships, a piece by North Carolina book artist Anita Francis.

North Carolina!

Size: 53,819 km2 (28th)

2014 Population: 9,943,964 (9th)

Statehood: 1789 (12th).  Succeeded 1861; readmitted 1868.

American Human Development Index: 4.47 (37th)

Art Mecca: Listen, I drove through North Carolina on an afternoon and the following morning about 25 years ago, and I remember nothing about it but an encounter with a preternaturally loud and low-flying military jet.  I'm certainly no authority on the arts scene in the state.  But a cursory review of North Carolingian art museums suggests something like the following narrative: Before the second world war, there was no public art in North Carolina.  In the last 75 years, and right up to the present day, the state's cultural infrastructure has been playing catch-up to the rising star of its overall prosperity.

At least, when I read that "The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA)... opened in 1956 as the first major museum collection in the country to be formed by State legislation and funding," my first guess is not that North Carolina was consolidating its position in the advance guard of the fine arts. My first guess is that movers and shakers in North Carolina were tired of being regarded as backwoods yokels who could not collectively pool enough sophistication to host a building full of expensive paintings, and turned to the government to finance a project for which private capital had failed to step up. Well, that's what governments are for, right?

The initial acquisitions budget was a cool million, which went further in the fifties than it does today, and various foundations and local organizations chipped in to get NCMA off the ground. The result looks to be a pretty-good collection along the lines of other regional art museums, with lesser works by top-flight artists like, say, Titian, Raphael, Brueghel, Rubens, van Dyck, Diebenkorn, Giacometti, and so on. For electives, they've chosen African and Egyptian and -- a new one on me -- Judaic ("one of only two galleries devoted to Judaica in an American art museum")!

It's in Raleigh, open late on Fridays and closed Mondays of course. As a legacy of its don't-call-it-socialism origin as an organ of the state, it's free! FREE!!!

Michael 5000's North Carolina

First Visited: June 2, 1994 (27th)
Most Recently Visited: June 3, 1994 (47th)

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

Have Admired the Visual Arts In: No.
Have Geohashed In: No.
Have Slept Overnight In: Yes.

Counties Visited: 18/100 (27th)
% Complete: 18% (41st)

Mrs. 5000's Counties Visited: 10/100 (39th)
% Complete: 10% (47th)
Mrs.5000 First Visited: Unknown
Mrs.5000 Most Recently Visited: Unknown

Atlas of All Roads Travelled

Plans and Aspirations

I would love to visit the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the states where I have least of real experience.  I even had a trip planned a few years back, but I cancelled it due to a terrible weather differential between there and home.  Someday I hope to spend a week or so zipping around and accruing counties.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Hobbema v. Hicks!

Meindert Hobbema lost to Andō Hiroshige in his first try at the Tournament, but then beat Nicholas Hilliard in his second outing to regain some traction.  Meanwhile, Edward Hicks beat Hilliard out of the gate, but then lost to Hiroshige in his second contest.  So today's contestants already have a lot of shared Touranment history.

Francisco Goya leaves the Tournament this week.  His well-known name failed to win him a large constituency among the Tournament voters, and in leaving he can only take comfort in that he piled up more votes for (34) than votes against (33).  Interestingly, he shares his unusual final record of wins, losses, and ties -- 1-2-2 -- with only one other painter, also a well-known artist who left the Tournament earlier than one might have expected.  That artist?  Gauguin.

Also leaving us this week is
Hans Hofmann, with a more prosaic record of 1-2, 14 vf, 19 va.

Meindert Hobbema
1638 - 1706

Edward Hicks
1780 - 1849

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, February 25, 2015

The Wednesday Post

It's Soviet Occupation Day in Georgia!
One of the less light-hearted feasts in the Georgian calendar.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Goldsworthy v. Lowry!

Last call for votes in the Fouth Round Caillebotte/Cassatt and Cézanne/Church showdowns!

Andy Goldsworthy
born 1956

Finished First in Phase 1, Flight 12 of the Play-In Tournament, with a voting score of .923.
Finished First in Phase 2, Flight 4, with a voting score of .500.
Beat contemporary Tony Cragg decisively in Round 1.

L.S. Lowry
1887 - 1973

Soundly defeated Lucas van Leyden 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, February 23, 2015

The New Monday Quiz VII

Sorry about the lack of a quiz last week.  I sat down to write it, and fell asleep.

Sorry about how this quiz appeared for a while last Wednesday and then disappeared. Blogger is still, after all these years, still a little glichy.

1. This population map is a bit dated, but the pattern still holds.  But what country does it show?

2. It's the one that has:
O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
and also:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd, —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

3. Here's a composite image very characteristic of the artist who made it!  But what's his name?

4. Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way," is sometimes called the world's oldest religion, although some people wonder if it exactly a religion, or a way of life, or a philosophical stance, or what exactly. Encompassing a wide range of belief and practice, it generally prescribes the eternal duties such as honesty, mercy, purity, and self-restraint.  We commonly call it ________.

5. This simplistic diagram could only represent _____________.

6. "Many people who may never have heard any of his major works ... have nevertheless derived great pleasure from hearing or singing such small masterpieces as the carol 'In the Bleak Midwinter.'"  But he's best known for The Planets.

7. The 214th movie on the imdb list has this plot summary: "A marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him." What's the well-known film?

8. He studied the rings of Saturn and discovered Titan, invented the pendulum clock, and was among the foremost theorists of gravity, mechanics, and optics before Newton. He developed the wave theory of light, he was Leibnitz's math tutor, and was a dab hand on the harpsichord. Who was this unreasonably brainy Dutchman?

9. What country's stamp is this?

10. They ruled the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, and at various times were kings of Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Galicia, Transylvania, and seemingly everywhere else. What was the name of this strange European family?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: de Heem v. Laurencin!

Jan Davidsz de Heem
1606 - c. 1683

Tied with Erich Heckel in his initial First Round outing, back in October 2013.


Marie Laurencin
1883 - 1956

Fought to a tie with Sir Thomas Lawrence in her First Round debut, last July.


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, February 20, 2015

Element of the Month: Alumin(i)um!

February's Element of the Month:

Aluminum! Or Aluminium!

Atomic Mass: 26.9815385 amu
Melting Point: 660.32 °C
Boiling Point: 2470 °C

When I was in second grade, my friend Randy and I found some metal pipes outside his grandfather's home that we could lift with surprising ease, and so we did what any sensible boys would do: began fencing. Unfortunately, and much to our astonishment, the pipes began to bend and twist before either of us was able to seriously injure the other. And so it was that I learned some important life lessons about aluminum: it's remarkably lightweight, it has nothing of steel's strength and stiffness, and if you choose to weaponize it, Randy's grandpa won't exactly approve, but won't exactly give a damn, either. That's why we played more at his house than my house.

Aluminum's lightness made it important for a long time in the construction of building-sized tubes that could be sent soaring through the skies on jets to get people and cargo from one airport to another. Obviously the "bend and twist" thing was an issue, but that's what alloying with all of those other metallic elements is for. Nowadays, we pretty much avoid the issue and go straight to fancy plastic laminates. But Aluminum is still considered pretty useful stuff for a million other purposes.

It is of course delightful that it is a slightly different word in International (Aluminium) and North American (Aluminum) English. I didn't know about the archaic "alumium," but now that I do I miss it.

The Centerfold!

You might be surprised by how common Aluminum is here on Earth. It is, in fact, the third most common Element up here on the crust, trailing only Oxygen and Silicon. As a proportion of the mass in the universe, Aluminum is almost nothing, but it's exactly the right kind of mass to be heavy enough to end up on a rocky planet but light enough to float to the surface. So here we are, surrounded by the stuff. Oddly, considering its ubiquity in our home environment, it has no apparent biological role whatsoever. None! This is the best evidence I've seen that human beings evolved on another, aluminum-free planet and were brought to Earth by some mysterious force in the distant past, not that I've been looking for it.

The extremely brainy German Friedrich Wöhler is credited with the co-discovery of Beryllium and Silicon, the isolation of Yttrium, Beryllium, and Titanium, and, in 1827, the discovery of Aluminum. That's a hell of a resume. It's surprising how late in the game Aluminum came along, and after the 1820s it remained extremely rare and valuable, more valuable than Gold for instance, for several decades. It wasn't until the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process came along in the 1880s that Aluminum could be produced at a very large scale, and so cheaply enough that tubes of it could eventually be left lying around for me and the neighbor kid to beat on each other with.

A tree artistically woven out of Aluminum wire, which
may be by sculptor Kevin Iris, who certainly makes trees
from Aluminum wire.  But the source was a little
NOT A KEVIS IRIS TREE!  See first comment, below.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Homer v. Hokusai!

Leaving the Tournament to set up this Elimination match are André Beauneveu (1-2-1; 18 vf, 31 va) and Gerrit van Honthorst (1-2, 11 vf, 24 va).

Winslow Homer
1836 - 1910
  • Beat the great German expatriate Hans Holbein in an unusually high-octane Round 1 match.
  • Lost to Dutch master Pieter De Hooch by a single vote in Round 2. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
  • Crushed André Beauneveu in the Left Bracket Second Round.

Katsushika Hokusai
1760 - 1849
  • Defeated William Hogarth in Round 1 by a two-vote spread. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
  • Lost to play-in artist Remedios Varo in Round 2.
  • Lambasted Gerrit van Honthorst in the Left Bracket Second Round by a safe margin.

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, February 18, 2015

The Wednesday Post

See California once more, once more
Clam Capital of the World.


The Queen Anne Cottage is still there.  Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin had it built for his fourth wife, sixteen year old Lillie Bennett, in 1884.  He was 56 at the time.  Lucky and Lillie broke up the next year, however, and Baldwin made the house into a bit of a shrine to his third wife, who had died in 1881.  It's open for tours, something to think about next time you are in L.A. County. 

Jack Smelt are easily caught and are excellent eating. 

The Pismo Beach Pier is still there.  Pretty much anything you see online about the town of Pismo Beach ("Clam Capital of the World") has a picture of this local landmark.  Its Wiki page, for instance. 

But I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "sure, it might be popular locally, but how does the Pismo Beach Pier stack up against other lateral boardwalks?  Has it ever been singled out for recognition amongst its, if you will, peer piers?"  Well in fact it has.  Pismo Beach Pier was designated "Pier of the Month" in March 1998 by the editors of  So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

ANIMAL COLOR SERIES From the San Diego Zoo
Indian Elephant

Elephants in the San Diego Zoo are still there.  That particular elephant is probably no longer with us, as captive elephants tend not to live out their otherwise human-approximate lifespan due to lifestyle diseases associated with overeating, lack of exercise, and too much daytime TV. 

The San Diego Zoo has a satellite campus these days, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Both sites have an elephant herd.  You can watch the Safari Park elephants in real time, if you'd like.


The Griffith Observatory is still there.  They know even more then they used to about the Earth and sky.  I've heard, though, that the Griffith is not an ideal research observatory because of the light pollution from nearby settled areas.


This swinging bridge across the Arroyo Grande Creek is a well known landmark in a pleasant community.

The Arroyo Grande people really like their swinging bridge.  It has its own web page!  We'll say it's still there.  The structure in the postcard got knocked down in 1995, but they built a new one lickity-split to preserve the historical continuity.  Here's a recent picture from the bridge enthusiast website

I doubt it signifies, but there is a "Blue Iris Florists" in Glendale, California, the town from which this postcard of blue irises was sent.