Monday, November 30, 2015

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1180s

Last week, seeing that the 1170s were relatively easy to write quiz questions for, I wondered if we had reached the magical tipping point where world history starts to get dense enough to make decadal quizzes easy.  Turns out I hadn't.

1. In 1180, Phillip II Augustus took the throne of France. In a 43-year reign, he would build it into the most powerful and stable country in Europe. To raise capital for his early endeavors, he decreed that all debts owed to a certain class of people would be reduced by 80%, and be made payable directly to himself. This was obviously a very popular move with people who owed money. But, what was the class of people that got shafted?

2. In 1182, the First Sejm established laws that limited the power of the monarch. Sejms have been happening off and on ever since, growing more consistent in recent history. The full name of the institution is the Sejm Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. What would we call it in English?

3. For decades, the Italian merchant expats had generally been considered pains in the ass: they fought among themselves, they were arrogant, they made way too much money, and they destabilized the local class system. To make things worse, from 1180 to 1182, a regency showed blatant favoritism to these guys. When the regency was overthrown in April 1182, things got ugly. In the ensuing "Massacre of the Latins," some 60,000 of them were murdered, sold into slavery, or forced to flee. This was an unfortunate chapter in the history of what city?

4. Meanwhile, what was going on in New Zealand in the 1180s?

5. In the 1180s, a Christian group from the mountains of Lebanon that had probably experimented with such doctrines as monophystitism and monothelitism agreed to accept papal supremacy and the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. This sect of Catholics still represents about a quarter of the population of modern Lebanon. What are they called?

6. This country's first incarnation lasted from 681 until 1018, when it fell to the Byzantines. The Second Empire emerged in 1185 under the brothers Peter and John Asen, who became its first two czars. From 1396 to 1878, the nation would be under the control of the Ottomans until emerging in 1878, more or less as the country we know today.

The Second Empire (orange) in about 1207.

7. In 1186 A.D., Jayavarman VII embarked on a massive program of construction and public works. Rajavihara, today known as Ta Prohm, was one of the first temples founded pursuant to that program. The temple's stele records that the site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 800,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. Even if we assume that these figures are a bit, um, generous, this was another impressive achievement of what major twelfth century empire?

8. Has the light produced during the 1180s by the star closest to our own solar system reached us yet?

9. On October 2, 1187, the dashing Saladin captured an important city. Famously, the killing, raping, and selling into slavery that usually accompanied the fall of a city in medieval times was kept to a relative minimum. What city did Saladin treat so gently, relatively speaking?

10. "I would have sold London if I could find a buyer!" After taking the English throne in 1189, Richard I "The Lion Hearted" began ransoming prisoners, selling political offices and crown lands, and forcing his ministers to pay fees to retain their posts. For what project was he so eager to raise cash?

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1170s

1. After Henry II's angry utterance, it was -- as Susan says -- Murder in the Cathedral.  Four courtiers rode off to whack Thomas Beckett.  It was all very unfortunate, especially for Thomas Beckett.
2. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, Fibonacci.
3. Ending Shia rule in Egypt means restoring Sunni rule in Egypt.
4. The Duke of Aquitane became Richard I "the Lionheart" or "the Lion-Hearted."  And he was eager to raise cash.
5. The city was Pisa, and the problem with the bell tower was that it began to lean.
6. The island is Luzon, in the modern Philippines.
7. The Battle of Legnano, with all of its implications for European history, involved about 3000 guys in each army.
8. The Pope's letter to Prester "two Es" John went undelivered because Prester John didn't exist.  He was thought to be the king of a wealthy Christian country in India or Africa or somewhere.
9. Monks wouldn't likely be troubled by eclipses; educated folks have understood how those work for all of human history.  No, we think that these monks were seeing a comet striking the moon.
10. 1179 may be the year that Chichen Itza was sacked.

Pfly wins the 1170s, ending DrSchnell's run of Monday Quiz wins.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Piper v. Pisanello!

John Piper
1903 - 1992


1395ish - 1455ish


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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Géricault v. Lorenzetti!

OK, so Gaddi tied with Gericault and Longhi tied with Lorenzo Monaco.  Then, Gaddi walloped Longhi.  Does it follow that Géricault wallops Lorenzo Monaco?  

In this case, yes!  So, both of the gentlemen from the Gs advance, with Géricault jumping from page 3 to page 5 in the brackets.  Let's see how he does!

Théodore Géricault
1791 - 1824

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
1319 - 1348ish

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, November 25, 2015

The Songs of the Fifty States: Missouri!

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

The Running Avatar started 2015 in Eastern Colorado, crossed into Nebraska on the last day of January, and entered Kansas on the first day of February. Since then, it has been a long traverse across the rural immensities of the Sunflower State. Only yesterday, some 630 miles later, did my insubstantial alter ego cross State Line Road and find himself in Missouri. Not long after, he came trotting up to the entrance of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of the State of Missouri.  State Capital Building, Jefferson City.


Size: 180,533 km2 (21st)

2013 Population: 6,063,589 (18th)

Statehood: 1821 (24th).

American Human Development Index: 4.60 (36th)

Art Mecca: I didn't really know much about art until -- well, let's be honest.  I still don't really know much about art.

But I really, really didn't know much about art until I was around thirty.  Sometime around there, a friend -- I'm not sure which friend -- suggested we go to nearby Kansas City, Missouri, and visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I didn't really expect much, but since the central area of the United States is not exactly brimming over with tourist destinations, I gave it a go.  And I was enchanted.  

I remember two pieces especially well.  One was a big ol' MonetNow, keep in mind that I am by upbringing a village lad when I say that I boggled, really boggled, that I was in the same room with, not a reproduction, but an actual Monet!  Imagine me stretching the word "golly" over several seconds, and you won't be far off.  I stood on the other side of the room from it.  I got right up on top of it, sticking my face a couple of inches from it.  I was all, like, "so that's what impressionism is!  Golly!"  The other was an ivory carving of the Fall of the Rebel Angels, the intricacy of which amazed me, and amazes me still.

I thought that the Nelson Atkins must be the coolest museum in the world, and I suppose for me, at the time, it was.  I went back several times before I moved away from Kansas.  I wonder if I'd still love it now that I've seen a lot more museums, or if I'd be all jaded.

Michael 5000's Missouri

First Visited: April 1, 1991 (5th)
Most Recently Visited: August 30, 1999 (46th)

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

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

Counties Visited: 56/115 (3rd)
% Complete: 48.7% (22nd)

Mrs. 5000's Counties Visited: 22/115 (15th)
% Complete: 19.1% (39th)
Mrs.5000 First Visited: Unknown
Mrs.5000 Most Recently Visited: Unknown

Atlas of All Roads Traveled

Plans and Aspirations

A side trip to Missouri in the foreseeable future is possible but not likely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Gaddi v. Hockney!

The upper left hand side of page three of the brackets has been a mess for a couple of years.  Today we resolve the old Gaddi/Gericault tie -- both of them survived their tiebreakers! -- but that won't really do much for us until the ancient tie from First Round Elimination #17 gets taken care of.  Someday!

In the meantime, it's Gaddi v. Hockney!

Taddeo Gaddi
c.1300 - 1366

David Hockney
Born 1937
British; works in United States

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.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1170s

Hey, the 1170s were relatively easy to write a quiz about!  Maybe I've reached the tipping point! 

1. In late 1170, Henry II of England, in a fit of pique (or perhaps of plausible deniability), exclaimed "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?!?" What happened next?

2. He would popularize the Hindu–Arabic numeral system -- the one you know and love -- in Europe. That's actually a really big deal. He's better known for a particular string of numbers in which each is the sum of the previous two. But in 1170 he was just a beautiful baby boy. What was his name?

3. In 1171, Saladin abolished the Fatimid Caliphate, thus ending Shia rule in Egypt. Or to put it another way, thus restoring ________ rule in Egypt.

4. In 1172, Henry's son Richard became the Duke of Aquitaine. By what colorful nickname do we remember Richard these day?

5. In August 1173, construction began on a cathedral bell tower in Southern Europe. By 1178, famously, the project had run into a serious snag. What was the city, and what was the problem?

6. In around 1175, the Kingdom of Namayan reached its high point of power on this island. Name the island to impress us, but for full marks all we need is the modern country that the island is part of.

7. On May 29, 1176, the Battle of Legnano was fought between the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and the Lombard League. The Lombard victory ended the Empire's chances of expansion south of the Alps, preserved Papal authority, and planted the seeds for the emergence of modern Italy seven centuries later. In this key historical battle, about how many soldiers were put in the field by each army: 300? 3000? 30,000? 300,000? or 3,000,000?

8. On September 27, 1177, Pope Alexander III reportedly sent a letter to Prester John. The letter was never delivered. Why not?

9. On June 18, 1178, five monks in Canterbury were kind of freaked out:
A flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
Obviously, they were ignorant savages and had no way to make sense of what they saw. But a modern, educated person like yourself can immediately infer what must have happened. Right?

10. The historical record is a bit fuzzy, but some hold that in 1179 Hunac Ceel, leading the forces of Mayapan, sacked the most famous city of the lowland plain, permanently destroying its political and economic power. Its ruins are still a major tourist attraction, though. What was the name of this city?

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1160s

1. Games of thrones in Sweden.
2. The Onyx is the longest river in Antarctica.  Notoriously poor farming.
3. Temüjin was the wee little Genghis Khan.  We'll probably see more of him.
4. China is really hard to craft questions for.
5. Go Notre Dame!
6. The rich agricultural lands south of the Crusader States would be Egypt.
7. Stefan Namanja was a bigshot of medieval Serbia.
8. The bushi were the Samurai.
9. 1169 was the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.  It set off roughly eight and a half centuries that we call "the Troubles."
10. China is still really hard to craft questions for.

A fine trio of answers, led by DrSchnell.  If his unseemly gloating at winning three straight Monday Quizzes gets to be too much, though, you can throw the famous "1169 Anglo-Norman invasion of England" right in his teeth.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Piero di Cosimo v. Pietro da Cortona!

Piero di Cosimo
1461ish - 1521


Pietro da Cortona
1596 - 1669


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, November 20, 2015

At the Movies: "The Asphalt Jungle"

At the Movies with Michael5000

The Asphalt Jungle
John Huston, 1950.

imbd: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% Fresh

The Asphalt Jungle is still talked about among movie fans for, well, a handful of reasons. It is apparently a fairly early entry in the heist genre, it’s thought to be a good example of film noir, it is a rare example from its era of a crime film that implicitly asks you to take the side of criminals, and it is the first significant appearance of Marilyn Monroe. Also, presumably people enjoy watching it.

Me, I wanted to watch it because I had learned that there is a character whose name is almost exactly the same as my father’s, with only a mere sibilant’s difference. This I had to see.

I like heist movies, but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by seeing too many of them that set out to out-heist Asphalt Jungle. In any event, and on the small screen, I was not as dazzled by the break-in sequence as I was led to believe I would be (by, among others, Kenneth Turan, who includes The Asphalt Jungle in his book Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film). As film noir… I don’t know. I can see how it conforms to some items on the film noir checklist, but it just didn’t feel very noir. Not to me. And as for the historical interest, suffice it to say that Marilyn Monroe’s part is pretty small, but long enough for her to seem pretty amateurish in it.

Did I enjoy watching it? Not especially. It felt like an “old movie,” in the mildly perjorative sense: showing its age, mildly amusing but without any particular distinction to recommend it from among our tens of thousands of other available choices.

Michael5000's imdb rating: 5.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament Left Bracket Second-Round Elimination: Laurencin v. Matta!

Jan Davidsz de Heem beat Marie Laurencin in the First Round, and Roberto Matta just beat de Heem in the Left Bracket Second Round.  So obviously, Matta will beat Laurencin easily, right?

NOT SO FAST!!  Tournament veterans know that it doesn't necessarily work like that!  So let's do this thing right -- vote for the artist of your choice, and we'll see who makes it to the Third Round!

Marie Laurencin
1883 - 1956

Roberto Sebastian Echaurren Matta
1911 - 2002

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, November 18, 2015

The Wednesday Post

Song of the American Road, part 4, take 2
We are here and it is cool today

Catching up with the postcards of February, 2010.


We are here and it is cool today. We are marked on the map. 1275 miles. -Fran

North Dakota is still there.  Well, it is in as much as anything as abstract as a "state" can be said to be "there."  In truth "North Dakota" exists, like money, only through an act of consensus imagination.  But the concept is still very much alive in the collective geographical consciousness, as evidenced by a thousand blithely confident maps.  They show you the lineaments of North Dakota, thereby implicitly arguing that North Dakota is a real thing, and that it merits mapping.

World's largest cheese kitchen (one of them).

Monday. Had 16 for Sunday dinner. 11 slept in the cabin. Mary and I slept in the car. Her cousin caught a big salmon. Weather is perfect. A little windy today.

Now there are just 6 here. Mary's cousin is here with us. -- Wish you were here. Love -- Linda.

The Tillamook Cheese factory is still there, although it is an entirely new building, I believe.  It is certainly not the world's largest "cheese kitchen" anymore, or "one of them" for that matter.  I have very grave doubts that it was ever in the running.


Hi you all. We are really having fun our trip was smooth the weather is warm, but not too, only so sticky see you all before too long

love E Russell

The skyline of Minneapolis is still there.  It has even grown a bit. If you look closely, you can find the building that dominates the postcard in the modern landscape.


Hi -- Having a break from the Rat Race. Weather perf.

The Bakers

Dorris, California is still there.  Its skyline has not grown as much as Minneapolis', and although many of the buildings are still extant, they all have new uses.  The water tower, and the crease in the hills, remain the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Nolan v. O'Keeffe!

Sir Sidney Nolan
1917 - 1992

Trounced minimalist Kenneth Noland in Round 1.

Georgia O'Keeffe
1887 - 1986

Beat German Emil Nolde 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.