Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 3: Schiele v. Schwitters!

Egon Schiele
1890 - 1918

Beat Christian Schad in Round 1.
Beat Julian Schnabel easily in Round 2.

Kurt Schwitters
1887 - 1948

Beat fifteenth century German Martin Schongauer easily in Round 1.
Defeated Jan van Scorel 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.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The New Monday Quiz Tries Out an Experimental Format

OK, here's the game:
First, fill in the grid with the answers to the implicit questions posed by the illustrations.

This will yield a proper noun. When you find it, list five noteworthy people, places, or things that bear the name.









Hold up!!  You aren't done yet!  Make sure you read the instructions up top!

Winners get bragging rights.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Teniers v. Ter Borch!

David Teniers
1610 - 1690


Gerard Ter Borch
1617 - 1681


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, January 27, 2017

Element of the Month: Bismuth!

January's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 208.98040 amu
Melting Point: 271.5 °C
Boiling Point: 1564 °C

"Bismuth" is such a homey, average-Joe name for an element! This always throws me off. It seems like it should be really low on the elemental table, and that it should be something that grandma keeps around the house for use as a dentifrice or to polish the silver or something. But in fact it's way down there at the bottom of the non-fakey elements, and even though it was known far enough back in history to have a non-sciency name -- something that doesn't end in "ium," basically -- it has never been especially important or useful to the human community. Indeed, we humans have mostly regarded it as an impurity to be reckoned with in our lead mining. Its marginal status turns out to be inherent in the name, which is either from the Arabic, meaning "kinda like Antimony," or possibly from the German, meaning "that white stuff."

In visual catalogs of the Elements, Bismuth is always over-represented because pure Bismuth can be coaxed into crazy technicolor crystals. But I know that you wouldn't want me to pander, so I'm going to show you a proper image of metallic Bismuth. It is of course a silvery grey metal.

The Centerfold!

After all, we're scientists here. There's no point in confusing the issue by gawping at garish images of Bismuth crystals as if they were an important aspect of its chemistry or use! I think we are above that kind of crass element pornography.

Whoopsie, how did those slip in?

Well anyway, with an elemental number up in the 80s, you are probably thinking two things. First, "wow, this stuff must be heavier than Lead!" That's kind of true! Lead is Element #82, Bismuth is Element #83, so on an atom-for-atom basis Bismuth is the heavier one. On the other hand, Bismuth is a bit less dense than Lead in solid form, so it's not quite as heavy volume-for-volume. They're close enough, though, which is why Bismuth is sometimes used these days for stuff like buckshot and fishing weights, where you just need a heavy substance and don't want to introduce lead toxicity into your friendly local ecosystem.

The other thing you are probably wondering is "hey, is it radioactive?" Great question! Bismuth was thought by our primitive 20th century forebears not to be radioactive, but we moderns have looked into the matter and determined that they were wrong! It emits alpha radiation, and has a half-life of 19,000,000,000,000,000,000 years! So... you know what, let's round off our figures and say "we were right before, it's not really radioactive."

Incidentally, I was kind of right about Bismuth being something that grandma might keep around the house for practical use. In a flash of insight, I looked up "Pepto-Bismol," and boom: the active ingredient in that popular antacid is Bismuth subsalicylate, AKA "pink Bismuth." Says here that Pepto-Bismol was originally a drug sold directly to doctors for use in treating infant cholera. It seems to work, but nobody really knows why.

I hope you enjoyed these very sciency facts about Bismuth.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Sisley v. Sittow!

Alfred Sisley
1839 - 1899

Beat David Alfaro Siqueiros in Round 1.

Michiel Sittow
1468 - 1525ish
Estonian; worked internationally

Defeated scupltor Claus Sluter 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Modersohn-Becker v. Signac!

Paula Modersohn-Becker
1876 - 1907

Tied with Frederic Leighton in her second try at Round One.
Tied with Fernand Léger in his first try at Round One.
Beat Canadian Bridget Riley in Round 1.

Paul Signac
1863 - 1935

Defeated Luca Signorelli easily 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, January 23, 2017

Through History With the New Monday Quiz: the 1360s

So, let's see.  When were we?

1. In the 1360s, the Yuan Dynasty fell and was replaced by the Ming Dynasty. This can be described as a native overthrow of what foreign overlords?

2. The “First Peace” in the Hundred Year’s War lasted from 1360 to 1369, meaning that this decade was relatively free of battles between what two countries?

3. In 1362, Öræfajökull erupted explosively, shooting out huge volumes of tephra and destroying the district of Litla-Hérað, which would not be resettled by humans for more than 40 years. In what modern country did this calamity occur?

4. Urban V, who was Pope from 1362 to 1370, was the first Pope in sixty years to visit Rome. Where was the Papal seat that he had to leave in order to make this visit?

5. Cultural Change in Britain: On October 13, 1362, the Chancellor of England opened Parliament with a speech that was different from previous such speeches in an important way. What was new about his speech?

6. In the first war between the Vijaynagra Empire and the Bahmani Sultanate, which lasted from 1362 to 1366, some sources say that there were more than a million soldiers in the field. The Sultan’s troops pushed south almost to the city of Vijaynagar early in the conflict, but was then forced into gradual retreat; eventually, the Vijaynagran leadership was able to buy peace in exchange for tribute. And now you know something about the medieval history of what country?

7. To the east of the Holy Roman Empire, meanwhile, Grand Duke Algirdas brought his country to the peak of its power. By 1363, it extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and in the late 1360s Algirdas would twice lay siege to Moscow. Of what country was Algirdas the Grand Duke?

8. In 1368, the Ming embarked on a massive engineering project to consolidate their victory. The basic idea had been tried many times before, but this time they put a lot of resources into it, and it worked fairly well. Parts of the structure are still around today. What’s it called?

9. One of the most important guys of the 1360s was Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy, and – as of 1365 – King of Burgundy. He rebuilt Prague as his capital, founding Charles University there. Through all of this, he made his original kingdom into a powerful state, granting it more territories and making it the “central force in German imperial geopolitics.” Never, though, did he give it a seacoast. Of what country – you’ve heard of it, even though it isn’t a country today – was Charles originally the king?

10. When you read about the mid-1300s, you run into a lot of references to “The Black Prince.” Who, roughly, was the Black Prince?

Through History with The New Monday Quiz: the 1350s

1. Switzerland
2. Mali
3. China and the Mongols
4. The incredible expanding Ottomans
5. The Decameron
6. The Holy Roman Empire
7. Portugal
8. The Hanseatic League
9. The Shroud of Turin
10. b.

And the winner was, and still is, Susan.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Tàpies v. Tatlin!

Antoni Tàpies
1923 - 2012


Vladimir Tatlin
1885 - 1953


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, January 19, 2017

The Semi-Finals: Monet v. O'Keeffe!

Third Thursday: Bringing big names to your mid-month!

"Semifinals" designates the Fourth to Seventh Rounds of the Infinite Art Tournament.  This is a Fifth Round Match.  It pits Claude Monet (4-0, 39-8, .830), who just beat Norman Rockwell by a single vote, again Georgia O'Keefe (4-0, 39-10, .796), who beat Pannini by a two-vote swing.

Claude Monet
1840 - 1926
After his death, Monet’s influence on contemporary art ebbed among the avant-garde, who favoured the more radical examples of artists such as van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Matisse, and Marcel Duchamp. A revival of interest in his work occurred in the early 1950s. Monet’s epic scale and formal innovations influenced Abstract Expressionist painters such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and a general scholarly reassessment of his importance began to develop. Wildly popular retrospective exhibitions of his work toured the world during the last decades of the 20th century and established his unparalleled public appeal, sustaining his reputation as one of the most significant and popular figures in the modern Western painting tradition. - Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Skunked! Skunked Henry Moore in Round 1
  • Skunked! Skunked Fernand Léger in Round 2
  • Beat Gustave Moreau easily in Round 3.
  • Defeated Norman Rockwell in the Fourth Round by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Georgia O'Keeffe
1887 - 1986
O’Keeffe has remained one of the most important and admired Modernist painters in the United States and one of its most celebrated icons. Through her consistently provocative and distinctively personal approach to image making, she created a body of work that conveys the integrity of her Modernist vision, her independent spirit, and, above all, her profound sensitivity to the vitality of natural forces.... In largely overcoming many critics’ gendered interpretations of her work, O’Keeffe also played a key role in disabusing the art community and the general public of the notion that gender was in any way a determinant of artistic competence or creativity. Thus, she helped to establish a new and significant space for female artists in a realm that has continued to be dominated by men. - Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Beat German Emil Nolde in Round 1.
  • Walloped Australian Sir Sidney Nolan in Round 2.
  • Prevailed against Ben Nicholson in Round 3.
  • Beat Giovanni Paolo Pannini in the Fourth Round by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!