Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Wednesday Post

California Then and Now: Revisiting the New Boring Postcards
The ideal setting for professional and spiritual growth

F L A M I N G O   A P T .   M O T E L
904 No. Strand  OCEANSIDE, CALIF.

The Flamingo Apt. Motel is kind of still there.  It has been been remodeled to make more residential space, and it looks like the casual lounging area on the postcard has been replaced by more units.  Also, it's now The Blue Whale, and it's a time-share resort.  Perfect if you need a laid-back home base for your annual trips to Southern California, I guess!

Bungalow Drive, Gilman's Relief Hot Springs, San Jacinto, Calif.

Gilman's Relief Hot Springs no longer exists as a resort.  It was purchased in 1978, in cash, by the Scottish Highland Quietude Club.   This turned out to be a front for the Scientology organization, which has since developed the property into a heavily guarded compound called "Gold Base" which serves as its world headquarters.  Described by the organization itself as "the ideal setting for professional and spiritual growth," Gold Base is also described by many past residents as a sort of prison camp where inmates work 16-hour days, are isolated from the outside world and encouraged to inform on grumbling coworkers, are occasionally subjected to bizarre punishments, humiliations, and physical abuse, and are tracked down by recovery squads if they make it over the razor-topped fence.  I have no personal insight into this, of course; I'm just summarizing a colorful Wiki article that includes passages like:
The Church acknowledged that the rules under which the Headleys lived included a ban on having children, censored mail, monitored phone calls, needing permission to have Internet access and being disciplined through manual labor. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a ruling given in July 2012 that Marc Headley had been made to clean human excrement by hand from an aeration pond on the compound with no protective equipment, while Claire Headley was banned from the dining hall for up to eight months in 2002. She lost 30 pounds (14 kg) as a result of subsisting on protein bars and water. In addition, she had two abortions to comply with the Sea Org's no-children policy.
So that's what's up at the hot springs these days!  Oh, and apparently there is a mansion waiting in readiness in case there is a second coming of L. Ron Hubbard. 

The year 'round greenery of Southern California's magic climate is a feature of Ferndale Lawn, a part of Greenwood memorial Park and Mortuary, San Diego.  

Greenwood Memorial Park is still there.  No surprises on this one.  Cemeteries tend to stick around.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Riley v. Rubens!

Bridget Riley
Born 1931

Tied with Canada's Jean-Paul Riopelle in her first try at Round One.
Lost to Paula Modersohn-Becker in Round 1.
Beat Italian master Luca Signorelli in First Round Elimination by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Sir Peter Paul Rubens
1577 - 1640

Crushed Théodore Rousseau in Round 1.
Tied with Henri Rousseau in Round 2. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Lost to Estonia's Michiel Sittow in the Round 2 Tiebreaker. It was a single-vote margin! YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

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, May 29, 2017

The New Monday Quiz Gets Into the Holiday Spirit, Except Unfortunately It's Not One of the Cheerful Holidays

It's Memorial Day in the United States.  Like most holidays, this one has at least two "meanings."  For a lot of people, it is the beginning of the summer season, one of a pair of generic bank holidays with Labor Day bracketing the season on its autumnal end. 

The intent of the holiday, of course -- and the way it is still observed by many people -- is to honor the country's war dead.  Like most countries, we have plenty of those.  Why?  Well, lots of young men die in wars because young men from other countries are told it is OK to kill them.  Many more die because the process of trying to kill people without being killed yourself forces soldiers into dangerous situations where they might easily drown, be crushed, starve, suffocate, or -- most commonly -- catch a lethal disease or infection and not be able to seek treatment.  

In most wars, deaths among soldiers are fewer than those among people who are not considered to be taking part in the killing.  Civilians are sometime killed incidentally or accidentally, because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time; sometimes they are killed out of spite or in order that soldiers or those who control them can steal their possessions or land.  Often, a war disrupts economic and agricultural activity to such an extent that people hundreds of miles from the nearest fighting will die of starvation.  

The Quiz today is about the world's war dead.  Sometimes I think that if people thought about war this way more often, without the narrative trappings of duty, heroism, patriotism, and grievance that always come attached, there would be fewer wars.  But I realize that's kind of naive.

It is always very difficult to specify how many people died as the result of a war.  However, almost any military historian would say that well over 2,000,000 people died in some of the conflicts on this list, and that well under 200,000 died in the others.

For each conflict -- regardless of what else we might think of it -- was it a "big war" or a "little war" in these terms?

1. The Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1920-present
2. The Bosnian War (1991-1995)
3. The Falklands War (1982)
4. The Mexican American War (1846-1848)
5. The Mongol Conquests (the 13th century)
6. The Russian Civil War (1917-1923)
7. The Second Congo War (1998-2003)
8. The Spanish American War (1898)
9. The Taiping Rebellion (China, 1850-1864)
10. War in Afghanistan, 2001-present
11. World War I (1914-1918)
12. World War II (1939-1945)

Answers go in the comments! 

Two weeks ago, the New Monday Quiz asked you whether elements were among the smallest five, or if they were numbered 25 or higher.  Here's the answers:

1. Beryllium -- little (4)
2. Boron -- little (5)
3. Bromine -- BIG (35)
4. Cobalt -- BIG (27)
5. Helium -- little (2)
6. Hydrogen -- little (1)
7. Iridium -- BIG (77)
8. Lithium -- little (3)
9. Manganese -- BIG (25)
10. Zinc -- BIG (30)

UnWise Owl predicted that anybody who answered would take a clean sweep, and he was right.  He, Morgan, and Dr. Schnell all know their periodic table, or at least the first bit. They therefore replace Susan as Incan Emporer of the Quiz, and now oversee this rather grim quiz week as a sort of Incan Triumvirate.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: de Vlaminck v. Vouet

Maurice de Vlaminck
1876 - 1958


Simon Vouet
1590 - 1649


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, May 25, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 3: Signac v. Sittow!

Paul Signac
1863 - 1935

Defeated Luca Signorelli easily in Round 1.
Beat Paula Modersohn-Becker in Round 2 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Michiel Sittow
1468 - 1525ish
Estonian; worked internationally

Defeated scupltor Claus Sluter in Round 1.
Tied with Alfred Sisley in Round 2. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Upset Peter Paul Rubens in a Round 2 tiebreak by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Wednesday Post

More New Acquisitions to the Castle5000 Boring Postcard Collection
The year 'round greenery of Southern California's magic climate
Thanks again, Morgan!

On the Beach
F L A M I N G O   A P T .   M O T E L
904 No. Strand    Phone: (714) 722-8849

Rooms, 1 and 2 bedroom apts., fully quipped kitchens.  2 patios, enclosed garages, shuffleboard.  Swimming, Surfboarding, Sportfishing.  3 blocks south of new boat Harbor. . .  2 blocks north of fishing pier.  Paul & Marion Heinbach, owners.

Bungalow Drive, Gilman's Relief Hot Springs, San Jacinto, Calif.

The year 'round greenery of Southern California's magic climate is a feature of Ferndale Lawn, a part of Greenwood memorial Park and Mortuary, San Diego.  The Park has one of three mortuaries in California located within cemetery grounds.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: T. Rousseau v. Rouault!

Théodore Rousseau
1812 - 1867

Pounded by Peter Paul Rubens in Round 1.
Beat sculptor Louis François Roubiliac in First Round Elimination.

Georges Rouault
1871 - 1958

Stunned Mark Rothko in Round 1, winning by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Lost to Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Round 2.

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.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Saint of the Month: St. Ageranus of Bèze!

St. Ageranus of Bèze

Feast Day: May 19.

Really Existed? Fairly likely.
Timeframe: The 800s.
Place: The Côte-d’Or, which is to say east central France.

Credentials: Recognized by tradition.
Martyrdom: Killed while defending a church.

Patron Saint of: n/a.
Symbolism: n/a.

St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie, the Saint of the Month for April, wasn't technically real. A little April Fools joke that was. It was a pretty good one, too! I’m a real card.

Leaving aside St. Bruce – and really, we must – there are only two Australian Saints. The Catholic Church recognizes St. Mary Helen Mackillop, and the Serbian Orthodox church venerates St. Nakanor Savic. Technically, the Australian Anglican Church has a somewhat longer roster of homegrown saints, but Anglicanism attaches very little significance indeed to the title of "saint," so Ms. Mackillop and Mr. Savic are it for all practical purposes.

Australia’s underrepresentation in the holy community got me thinking about the geographical and historical distribution of saints, something that I’ve started to have a little bit of a feel for but have never systematically explored or found pre-explored for me. So my plan for this month was that I’d look at all of the saints that I could find for one given day – today, in fact – and look at their pattern in time and space.  Neat idea, right?

Well, I ran into methodological trouble right from the first entry on the CatholicSaints.Info calendar, for today is the feast day of the Twenty-Five Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution. If we included all of those guys, it would certainly weight our survey towards “Mexico” and “1917.” Setting that issue aside, I moved on to the next fellow, St. Adalric of Blèze. He seemed pretty straightforward: “France,” “888.” The third entry was Blessed Adilio Daronch (“Brazil,” “1924”), but should I include the Blessed (who are basically an associate rank of saints) or stick to full Saints? Another issue set aside, I noticed the next two guys: St. Ageranus of Blèze and St. Ansuinus of Blèze.  Blèze, at this point, seemed to be a amazing hotbed of sanctity. Since my simple little “let’s take a sample!” project was being completely undermined by the messiness of real data, as such projects usually are, I decided to shelve it for now and look into the whole Blèze thing instead.

Here’s what the CatholicSaints profile had on St. Adalric of Blèze: Young boy. Martyred at the monastery of Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France against Norman invaders in 888 at Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France.  Here's what it said about St. Ageranus of Blèze, our actual May Saint of the Month: Benedictine monk. Martyred defending the altar at the monastery of Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France against Norman invaders in 888 at Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France. And so on through five other saints of Blèze. “OK,” I thought, “that’s interesting. I wonder how much is really known about the Norman sack of the church at Blèze. Let’s find out!”

Long story short, it turns out there’s no such place as Blèze and, as far as the internet knows, there never was. I spent more time then you would probably credit hunting down places called Blaise and Blesey and so on that either aren’t particularly close to the Côte-d’Or, or are but don’t seem to have ever had a monastery – although it can sometimes be hard to tell from the internet what was going on in a town 1,129 years ago. But then, on a whim, I looked into the little settlement of Bèze – and boom! Paydirt. Here, from the French language Wiki article on that place, as rendered by machine translation:
In 888, it was the Norman invasion. The five monks, a priest and a child left to defend the abbey are killed. The Normans devastate, sack and ravage everything in their path. The old cave serves as a shelter for the men of the village and the monks who have hidden there. A terrible famine took place after the departure of the Normans because their army had annihilated the crops. The abbey is deserted.

And this tradition is confirmed in, for instance, John J. Delaney's 1980 Dictionary of Saints:
St. Ageranus [was] a Benedictine monk at Bèze, he remained there with a priest, Ansuinus; four other monks, Berard, Genesius, Rodron, and Sifrard; and a boy named Adalric after all the other monks had fled during the Norman invasion. All seven were murdered by the invaders.

Now then.  When I talk about the way that information and misinformation about saints is proliferated on the internet, I tend to think in mechanistic terms, and the two or three of you who follow Saint of the Month might well expect me to start rattling on at this point about whether or not it might be valid to conceive of a St. Ageranus of Blèze who has already achieved an existence independent of St. Ageranus of Bèze, and to wonder whether their identities might blur and drift as we move forward through time.

But instead, I did something a little more daring. I looked through the site and found a person, an actually individual human being, who is responsible for maintaining the site. Then, I sent him a polite little message pointing out the error and offering some evidence to back myself up. And you know what happened? The guy immediately wrote back to thank me, that’s what! Since then, I've noticed that the typo, in all its messy iterations, is gradually getting corrected.  So that’s my contribution to popular hagiography for this month, which ain’t bad though I say it myself.  I feel like I've done pretty well by St. Ageranus.

So, Happy St. Ageranus of Bèze’s Day to you, and six times more happiness for the other sainted men of Bèze, and twenty-five times more happiness for the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Vigée Le Brun v. Escher

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
1755 - 1842


M. C. Escher
1898 - 1972

Tied for First in Phase 1, Flight 4 of the Play-In Tournament.
Placed Third in Phase 2, Flight 4 of the Play-In Tournament.
Won this spot in the Main Tournament Brackets away from Bill Viola in the first "Fight for Their Right" Contest.


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, May 19, 2017

Element of the Month: Gold

May's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 196.966 amu
Melting Point: 1064.18 °C
Boiling Point: 2970 °C

It has been seven years since Gold’s companion element Silver had its month in the limelight, and – dang, seven years! That’s a lot of blogging about elements. But I digress.

Much that is true about Silver is also true of Gold:
  • It's shiny!
  • Is used as an arbitrary repository of human wealth because it’s relatively scarce, and shiny!
  • It’s popular in the jewelry trade.
  • Is in the “Group 11” column of the periodic table.
  • Because it’s been known since antiquity, it has a prosaic name (it ain’t “Goldium”) and a wacky symbol (Au) based on the Latin Aurum.
  • Its price tends to balloon in uncertain times, when people think that society is going to collapse and that there will be a brisk trade in shiny stuff in the smoking ruins.
There are, of course, some differences. It is, for instance, a rare example of an elemental metal that is not silver in color. It is, in fact, gold in color. (Another exception is Copper, which is copper-colored.) It also enjoys a higher monetary value than Silver – Gold is worth 16 times as much as Silver by tradition, but generally much more than that these days. At the moment I’m writing this, Gold is worth a little more than 74 times as much as silver. That’s by weight, of course.

The Centerfold!

“Well,” you’re thinking, “the value differential must be a function of supply and demand, what with Silver being so much more common.” And there’s a little something to this; the amount of Silver in the Earth’s crust is something like 2½ to 3 times the amount of Gold. It’s also easier to find. There are plenty of ginormous scars on the planet being made even as we speak by humans looking for Gold, whereas Silver is usually just a nifty by-product that miners are happy to encounter while they are looking for something else, probably Lead, Copper, or Zinc. Even so the yearly yield of Silver is 8 or 9 times that of Gold.

So, if there’s 8 or 9 times as much Silver produced, but Gold is worth 74 times as much, it must be something on the demand side. Gold must be a lot more useful! But no, only about 10% of Gold production goes into practical applications, whereas about half of Silver production does. So, the long and short of it is, Gold is more valuable because it’s preferred for jewelry and hoarding purposes. Which gets back to the original point, which is that people like it because it’s shiny.

Gold has been on my mind lately because I am the proud owner of two new crowned molars. I am happy to flash my stylish gold teeth for all comers – they are, indeed, kinda shiny – but since they are pretty far back in the mouth, it requires some effort by me and the viewer alike to get the full effect. The Gold seems to be doing a bang-up job of letting me grind up crunchy foods into digestible mash again, after a tedious 3-week regimen of soft food.  ("How long will they last?" asked a young friend.  Well, Gold is one of the less reactive metals, so is famously durable.  "Longer than I will," I told her.)

Finally, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the importance of Gold in gilding, which is the application of a tiny thin layer of gold to frames, statues, domes, and other such stuff for the purpose of making it shiny. I’d be remiss in this, because Niece #1 is an apprentice gilder. I daresay she’s one of the leading gilders of her generation, unless there are a lot more young gilders running around than I think there are.

Klimt was all about the gilding.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Semi-Finals: Klimt v. de La Tour!

"Semifinals" designates the Fourth to Seventh Rounds of the Infinite Art Tournament.  This is a Left Bracket Fourth Round Match between Gustav Klimt (5-1, 51-20, .718) and Georges de la Tour (3-1, 34-16, .680).  Leaving the Tournament after falling to Klimt is play-in artist Banksy (3-2, 33-28, .541).

Gustav Klimt
1862 - 1918

Georges de La Tour
1593 - 1652
  • Trounced Peter Lanyon in Round 1.
  • Walloped animal specialist Sir Edwin Landseer in Round 2.
  • Overcame the Czech abstract painter Frantisek Kupka in Round 3, but only by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
  • Lost to Denmark's Peter Severin Krøyer in a Round 4 single-vote thriller. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!