Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Apparently Jango Fett had really terrible eyesight." (The Star Wars Blogathon)

I have a series of posts on here that I call Stupid Questions, a misnomer I suppose because they're anything but, and yesterday PT's comment so fittingly fitted that category that I told him on Twitter (where you should follow me and follow him) that it deserves to be highlighted, and so I am highlighting it:

I also wanted to point out a couple of things that occurred to me when I watched "Star Wars" (aka A New Hope) the other night.

I don't really like watching the Special Edition. First the whole "Greedo shooting first" thing is so lame. I don't care what Lucas says about it, there is no freaking way Greedo was shooting first. I mean look at the forensics here: Greedo is sitting like 2 feet away from Han and he MISSES? And it's not like Han ducked either. So it just looks so stupid. (Also do all Rodians wear the same thing because after Greedo dies you can see at least two more who look exactly the same running around.) That part with Jabba is also so lame because of where Han walks right over Jabba's tail which wasn't there when Harrison Ford acted the scene out. It's really corny because of the cartoonish way Jabba's eyes bug out and the way Han just walks right over this big bad gangster's tail without saying anything or breaking in what he was saying. I mean it's nice they wanted to fill us in on Han and Jabba there but if you can't do the scene so it doesn't look stupid then don't do it at all. The scene with Luke and Biggs was the only added scene that was OK, though I kind of wondered if Biggs was a little too old to be friends with Luke.

Also, why the hell does it take the Stormtroopers so long to figure out where everyone went when Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie jumped into the garbage disposal? I mean hello, you saw them dive into the wall and there's this giant hole in the wall. Duh. Why didn't the Stormtroopers just go down there and kill them? Or roll a couple of freaking thermal detonators down there. Yeesh. Of course like Greedo they couldn't hit a dewback (or whatever those giant lizards were called) from two feet away. Apparently Jango Fett had really terrible eyesight.

And whenever I watch that it's so funny how "cover me" means flying behind someone to get shot down. It's funny too when they shout, "I can't hold them off!" Well gee, probably because you aren't doing anything! There's this little maneuver called a loop, maybe try that.
PT: Nailed it.

People are always making videos where they mashup similar sequences from movies.  I couldn't find "Cover me!" so I went with this:

Question 89:

What is the Huttese insult C-3PO finds rude in The Empire Strikes Back?

  Today's rules:

1.  The question's worth 3,000 points if you're in the lead at the time you answer it; it's worth an extra 3,000 points for each place you lag behind the leader (so number 2 gets 8,000 points)
2.  Mention Andrew Leon's class' book on your blog, get 1,000 points (leave me a link.)
3.  Commenter number 5, you get 10,000 points from any other person who leaves a comment today... but you can't also be commenter number two. (Yep. You read that right.)

 And here are the standings for the Big Four still in the running. Andrew's correct answer yesterday earned him points equal to 1/2 the total of the next commenter, who was Michael Offutt.  I awarded PT 2,000 points for the comment. Michael was also commenter 3, so he gets to steal 5,000 points but hasn't told me who he's stealing from.

Andrew Leon: 81,411 1/4. (Andrew's the author of the great YA book, The House On The Corner. Click here to go to his blog.)

 P.T. Dilloway: 32,121. Author Patrick Dilloway blogs here, and wrote the excellent book Where You Belong, available here.)

Rusty Webb: 4,022, Blogger at The Blutonian Death Egg, author of the great novella A Dead God's Wrath.

Michael Offutt, 2,3021/2, author of  the great sci-fi book Slipstream, which you can read about on Goodreads)

Cool pictures.  Nonsensical titles:

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Would you give the Emperor a foot massage?" (The Star Wars Blogathon)

You know, if you think about it, what I've learned so far in doing this blog post is that Lucas was constantly changing his storyline and his characters and the rules of the universe - -from Whills, elders who ruled the universe to the Force, a mysterious energy field that turns out to be bacteria based, for example, or Han The Lizard to Han Solo, space smuggling good guy. 

So changing the rules constantly makes this Blogathon kind of meta, don't you think?


How about if I point out that both the Star Wars series and this Blogathon both are widely considered to have gone on far too long?

Question 88:

What recent move by Lucasfilm has fans wondering if the long-rumored Boba Fett movie is going to be a reality?

  Today's rules:

1.  Getting the question right gets you 1/2 the points of the person just ahead of you.  If you are in the lead, you get 1/2 the points of the next person to comment.
2.  Mention Andrew Leon's class' book on your blog, get 1,000 points (leave me a link.)
3.  Commenter number 3, you get to steal 5,000 points from any other person who leaves a comment today... but you can't also be commenter number two.

 And here are the standings for the Big Four still in the running:

Andrew Leon: 80,260. (Andrew's the author of the great YA book, The House On The Corner. Click here to go to his blog.)

 P.T. Dilloway: 30,121. Author Patrick Dilloway blogs here, and wrote the excellent book Where You Belong, available here.)

Rusty Webb: 4,022, Blogger at The Blutonian Death Egg, author of the great novella A Dead God's Wrath.

Michael Offutt, 2,3021/2, author of  the great sci-fi book Slipstream, which you can read about on Goodreads)

30 Things "The Scream" is screaming, 16 (Is This Art?)

The other day, Jeremy Bates, author/commenter, mentioned that Dali might be someone worthy of reinterpreting The Scream, as opposed to Andy Warhol, who commenter/author/dad/teacher Andrew Leon felt contributed to art solely by painting soup cans, while author/superhero author PT Dilloway felt Warhol's Elvis painting was the most notable thing about pop art like that.

Which brings me to dadaism.

My previous exposure to dadaism was through the group dada and their song Diz Knee Land,

which I used to rollerblade to when I was an undergraduate at UW-Milwaukee.  I also listened to Ned's Atomic Dustbin:

but that latter one has no real connection to dadaism, so don't worry too much about it.

Anyway, I went a-lookin' for a Dali interpretation of The Scream and before I could search much I ran into a math website that talked about artists, which seems like a weird way to teach math but then, teaching math is a weird way to teach math, as we should focus more on surveys of math, teaching kids mathematical concepts and thinking rather than rote memorization.  Schools should be a whole lot different, and would be if (when) I was in charge.  There'd be no history, for one thing.  And more science.  And everyone would take shop class.  And art.  And football teams wouldn't be a big deal.

I digress.  Dadaism according to the math site was an art form that said art had no meaning and would therefore take everyday objects and alter them slightly and call them art.  Wikipedia actually says a lot more,  including that the movement was meant to point out the absurdity of modern life, not art, which is kind of confusing: The idea that art has no meaning would be directly contrary to the idea that your art can point out that art has no meaning. 

But that seems the kind of thing dadaists would enjoy.

Most of the dadaists quoted on Wikipedia talk about destroying art and commenting, in doing so, on the horrific images and aftereffects of World War I, which was credited with helping spawn the movement. 

Here in America, the movement took on stronger anti-art themes, with Marcel Duchamp's famous Fountain:

Which the moment I saw it I thought was obviously the birthplace of every single hack art student work ever, right up to and including putting crucifixes in urine.

The idea that art could be shocking and demoralizing was new and revolutionary (and shocking and demoralizing) back in the early part of the 20th century.  But can any art shock or demoralize anymore? 

And by shock and demoralize I don't mean "make right-wingers mad."  That's not hard to do, at all.  I mean really get the world up in arms, one way or the other.

I'm sitting here, on this fine Monday morning and trying to think of a painting or poster or play or musical or art form of one kind or another that shocked the world or took it by storm.  And you know what I come up with?

The Matrix.

Not that it shocked the world, not the way dadaism seems to have.  But it changed the world, in that before it came out, movies looked one way and after it came out, movies looked another way. 

The Matrix wasn't anything new, really: computer games, 'what if this is all a dream?' -- it was simply freshman-dorm-room philosophy.  What it did was present that old idea (going back to pre-Plato times, the idea that none of what we are experiencing is real but is instead a construct we make, an idea Plato actually rejected, postulating instead that we had two potential kinds of existence, the imperfect one of our senses and the perfect one of being) in an entirely new way, and in doing so, completely re-ordered the way movies are made.

Which is to say, The Matrix tore down old movies and built up new ones.  It's impossible to say whether that big-deal, 360-degree scene of The Avengers assembling would have been made if not for the fact that The Matrix nearly 15 years ago gave us 360-degree freeze-frames, just as it's impossible to say if pop art like Warhol's would have existed if dadaism hadn't shocked and demoralized the world by tearing art down.  Maybe eventually we would have naturally progressed to the point of making new art, or making movies look new, but dadaism and The Matrix jump-started the process.

I think maybe that's why I'm so underwhelmed by The Scream.  It sold for $119,900,000.  Why?  Is it ground-breaking?  No.  Is it especially proficient?  No.  Does it represent the best, the newest, the weirdest, the most-thought-provoking, the -est of any category?

No. Not other than "Most expensivest," which maybe is the newest form of art at all.

Today's caption:

Plus, I'm not even very pretty to look at!

Caption 15.

Caption 14.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

In which I learn a lesson about wanting things. (Sundays With The Classics)

Be careful what you wish for.

I think that's the moral of Great Expectations. I finished the part today where Pip goes back to Miss Havisham's with Estella, and there he sees them get into a fight -- the only fight he's ever seen them have-- when Miss Havisham reproaches Estella for not loving her, and Estella points out that Miss Havisham raised her to be incapable of loving, and so should not take it the wrong way when Estella loves nobody.

In the end, Miss Havisham's heart is going to get broken again: she adopted Estella and raised her to get revenge on men, and wanted Estella to love only her, but Estella can't even do that.

Be careful what you wish for.

Pip wished, of course, for riches, to be a gentleman, to be in a position where he might win Estella and have a life of ease and reading and ribald nights of toasting to the ladies with the Finches, and he got that, delivered to him by his uncle Provis, the returned Abel Magwitch, coming back to risk death just to see the gentleman he raised.

Again, I'm kind of amazed at how gothic Great Expectations is.  I watch comedies these days and I think to myself how thin of a line separates comedy from tragedy.  There was an episode of The Big Bang Theory last week that I watched and in it, Sheldon is at first scared by a blue jay that lands outside his window, and then he's more scared when the jay gets into his apartment.  He calls the girls over and they point out to him that the blue jay is tame and he grows to like it, only to have it then escape when he opens the window.  At the end of the show, he's brought the bird's nest in and plans on hatching the eggs himself to have a new friend.

Read that a certain way, and you'll be crying.  The show was very funny, and yet I recognized the entire time I was watching it how sad it really was.

There's a scene in Stranger in a Strange Land where Valentine Michael Smith goes to the zoo and watches the monkeys.  A monkey finds something, a banana or something and is about to enjoy it when a larger monkey comes and steals the thing.  The deprived monkey gets upset and goes and beats up a smaller monkey.

And Valentine Michael Smith starts laughing uncontrollably, and says that humans laugh at pain, laughing, maybe, so we don't cry.

Try watching a comedy once and paying no attention to the laugh lines, and see if it isn't one of the saddest things you've ever watched.

That's kind of what's going on with Great Expectations: there is comedy, to be sure, but it's all so very sad and the sadness isn't even well-hidden.  Pip's entire family is dead, his sister most recently felled after a unsolved attack.  Pip's best friend is poor and would remain so if Pip didn't help him out.  He's in love with a woman who was raised by a deranged madwoman.

And the parts that aren't sad are actually quite frightening, or would be: Great Expectations is kind of like the Fall of the House Of Usher or other tragedies of manners.  Part of the scene I read today saw Pip spooking around Satis House in the middle of the night, watching Miss Havisham go on her ghostly, ghastly rounds -- and then being unable to find his way out, he sleeps the night in the dark hallway, listening to her ramblings.

Be careful what you wish for, though, is my theme tonight, and in the book, a part that Pip drives home through repeating a story that the reader was apparently expected to be well-acquainted with. 

In the Eastern story, the heavy slab that was to fall on the bed of state in the flush of conquest was slowly wrought out in the quarry, the tunnel for the rope to hold it in its place was slowly carried through the leagues of rock, the slab was slowly raised and fitted in the roof, the rope was rove to it and slowly taken through the miles of hollow to the great iron ring. All being made ready with much labour, and the hour come, the sultan was roused in the dead of night, and the sharpened axe that was to sever the rope from the great iron ring was put into his hand, and he struck with it, and the rope parted and rushed away, and the ceiling fell. So, in my case; all the work, near and afar, that tended to the end, had been accomplished; and in an instant the blow was struck; and the roof of my strong hold dropped upon me.

 And the roof of my strong hold dropped upon me; having built his palace, he was killed by it.  But what Eastern Story is Pip talking about?

Apparently, it's the Tale of Genji, called by some people the first modern novel,  but I wasn't able to find in the summary where the heavy slab comes in.  Whatever the story was, Dickens' readers were assumed to know it, because he didn't have Pip say "Boy, I'm like that Sultan in Tale of Genji," he just had to reference it and people would get it. 

So I'm up to the part where Pip has just confirmed with Jaggers that Miss Havisham never had anything to do with his coming into property; he knew it, he believed Abel Magwitch/Uncle Provis, but he wanted to try to check anyway, in hopes that maybe this was all a big trick, and I keep thinking not only be careful what you wish for, but kind of also that Pip really, really really is unlikeable. 

I've spent a long time believing that Pip was this nice guy, the little kid on the marshes who bolted his bread and helped out the conwict and all, but reading this book from a perspective of a 43-year-old, I can see I was wrong.

Yes, Pip's got this albatross around his neck: Provis/Magwitch intends to stay and Pip has to hide him and Pip might even get in trouble for harboring him and if he's caught he dies, and sure, in Pip's time it wouldn't have been great to get your money from a returned felon, but still, I couldn't help thinking, as Pip was being horrified into a sleepless night when Abel first shows up, Man, Pip is a real bastard.

So now, one of my treasured memories of literature-- Pip = Nice guy -- has been destroyed, all because I thought I'd re-read Great Expectations.

Say it with me...

Today's a doubler! (The Star Wars Blogathon)

Today's question lets you DOUBLE YOUR POINTS if you're the first person to get it right. 

Question 87:

What pop group filmed a cameo in Attack of the Clones, only to find their scenes cut?

Today's rules:

1.  Getting the question right gets you double your current points.
2.  Mention Andrew Leon's class' book on your blog, get 1,000 points (leave me a link.)
3.  Commenter number 2, you get to steal 3,000 points from any other person who leaves a comment today... but you can't also be commenter one.

 And here are the standings for the Big Four still in the running:

Andrew Leon: 40,130. (Andrew's the author of the great YA book, The House On The Corner. Click here to go to his blog.)

 P.T. Dilloway: 30,121. Author Patrick Dilloway blogs here, and wrote the excellent book Where You Belong, available here.)

Rusty Webb: 4,022, Blogger at The Blutonian Death Egg, author of the great novella A Dead God's Wrath.

Michael Offutt, 2,302 1/2, author of  the great sci-fi book Slipstream, which you can read about on Goodreads)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

30 Things "The Scream" Is Screaming, 15 (Is This Art?)

First example of Seurat Painting PhotoWhat I was wondering was whether there had ever been a live-action, or real-life, re-enactment of The Scream.  You know, like when they all dressed up as paintings on Arrested Development, or when they all dressed up as paintings on Modern Family, or probably when they did that on every TV show ever.  I figured they must have done The Scream because virtually every other painting appears to have had a 3D recreation. (There's a whole bunch of them here, but no The Scream.)

The practice of posing like a painting is called tableau.  Or, more sophisticatedly, a tableau vivant.  A tableau vivant of The Scream would seem simple, but for those colors. 

I found links to what appeared to be two such depictions, only to find that each link led me to the same article about a bride freaking out about her wedding and apparently tableau vivanting the painting, which just irritated me because I don't get why people freak out about their weddings.  To me, there is an inverse relationship between the amount of stress one feels about how perfect a wedding is and how valuable that person is to society, and topping off generic ruminations about wedding anxiety with a generic recreation of The Scream just makes me remember my Rachel-in-the-OC rage

I did find this, though:

That's Andy Warhol's version of The Scream, and it sold for 300,000 pounds at Sotheby's not long before The Scream sold to a sucker for $119,900,0900.

That's $191,367 in real money.

Question: How much do you think a recreation of Andy Warhol's reinterpretation of The Scream would sell for?

Extra Credit:  What, exactly, was Andy Warhol's contribution to the art world, as opposed to the world of commerce?

Today's Caption:

 But at least I've never
been on a cereal box!

Yet, Mr The Scream.  You mean yet.


Caption 14.

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As either Henry David Thoreau or former Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura said... (The Star Wars Blogathon)

UPDATE: the question is in there, now.

"Simplify, simplify... what was the third one?"

That's a direct quote.  Rusty's right: time to take this down a notch.  In recent weeks, the Blogathon has gotten more complicated than the reasoning I give my cardiologist for continuing to eat pizza for breakfast*

*begins with J.P. Morgan's attempt in the 20s to capture the zinc market, ends with a series of clicks I claim to be the native language of Papua New Guinea.

And with nobody getting these right anymore, and my email losing Michael Offutt's WHAMMY! entries -- he entered that one I thought nobody entered, and so gets 2,000 points - I'm just going to dial it back down to 10.5.

So we'll just go back to answering questions in the comments, and I'm going to have just two rules:

1.  You post your answer, and get the points I assign for that day.

2.  I may add other rules, so read carefully.  I'm still me, remember.

So here's question:

Who played Jabba The Hutt in the meeting with Han in the Falcon's hangar bay... in the original scene?

Today's rules:

1.  The question is worth 2,500 points.
2.  Mention Andrew Leon's class' book on your blog, get 1,000 points (leave me a link.)
3.  Commenter number 3, you get to steal 1,000 points from any other person who leaves a comment today... but you can't also be commenter two.

Well, that idea of simplifying lasted about as long as it took me to type this post.

By the way:  Here are two questions nobody got right:

The first working title for Star Wars was "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as Taken from the 'Journal of the Whills': Saga I - Star Wars."  It had that title because originally George Lucas was going to have the story told from the perspective of a Whill, a sort of omniscient being who had various powers.  Eventually, the concept of Whills was dropped and that idea became The Force.

And if you picture David Schwimmer smiling and folding his arms while some music plays and a rainbow spells The More You Know, we'll all be happy.

 And here are the standings for the Big Four still in the running:

Andrew Leon: 36,630. (Andrew's the author of the great YA book, The House On The Corner. Click here to go to his blog.)

 P.T. Dilloway: 31,121. Author Patrick Dilloway blogs here, and wrote the excellent book Where You Belong, available here.)

Rusty Webb: 4,022, Blogger at The Blutonian Death Egg, author of the great novella A Dead God's Wrath.

Michael Offutt, 2,302 1/2, author of  the great sci-fi book Slipstream, which you can read about on Goodreads)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

30 things "The Scream" is Screaming, 14 (Is This Art?)

Yesterday, I didn't get much of a chance to post anything and the time I did have to spend posting I focused on attempting to do what little I could to help save Wisconsin from Gov. Patsy, and what time I had after that I used for my evening walk that I used to do during the day but I now do at night, and as I walked I listened to a podcast, I don't remember which one, but I heard on that podcast that they had developed a camera that converted your pictures to text.

That can't be true, I thought.

Then: Who would want that? I thought.

Then: I want that. More than anything, I thought, but I was in the middle of a nature preserve looking at a crane

and there was no place to get a camera that converted pictures to text.

Now, twenty-four hours later, I still want it and then I don't and then I do.  Mostly I want to see how it works.  I am, after all, an amateur photographer (I often wonder what separates amateur photographers like me from artist photographers, and I think the difference is that I don't feel confident enough to simply say I'm a photographer.  I put amateur in front of the word as a way of separating myself from the thing -- kind of like when you have to talk about an actress you think is pretty but you don't want Sweetie to get offended, so you'll say something like "that Jennifer Aniston," using that to indicate that you're not really that close.)

Photography isn't really art the way I think of art, although I suppose it is, a little.  You still have to compose the photo and decide where to focus and what the coloring should be and whether to crop it but it's not art in the sense that you can learn those things, and you can do them without really having any technical skill.  Calling photography art is like calling someone who's good at Guitar Hero a musician.

The "Verbal Camera" is a real thing, only it turns out it's not real the way I imagined it was real -- it is to a real verbal camera as photography is to art: an imitation of the real thing that almost anyone can do.  Here's the camera:

But when you take a picture, the image is sent to a person in another country, who will quickly describe your picture and give you a receipt that has the description of the image on it:

There's something indecipherably cool, to me, about the idea of a machine that would instantly take a scene:

And instantly describe it:

An oblong pond somewhat in the shape of an inverted footprint, with water going from midnight blue in one corner to sky blue as it fades off into the distance, the color only changed where the reflections of the trees around the pond, darker in the water than they are in real life, mirror themselves back into the sky they stab upwards into on the shores.  Fluffy grass crowds the water, leaning forward and jostling among itself for position while two sentinels of trees stand guard on the left, western side of the shore.  Wispy giant seagulls of clouds soar insubstantially on the horizon, themselves partly white and partly the blue of the evening sky...

While there is something ineluctably disappointing to find out such a thing doesn't exist and it's just outsourcing photo captions the way some McDonald's outsource drive-thru speaker orders.

So. In 24 hours, I came to believe a thing existed, and then learned it did not, and I am disappointed in the world being now slightly less wonderful than I thought it was.

Today's caption:


(He's right. It worked.)


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Thursday Scramble!

Thursday Scramble! is when I take one post from one blog and put it on all my blogs.  This appeared first on Publicus Proventus, where I talk about politics and the Federalist Papers and why Citizens United wasn't such a bad thing, and the like:

Recall Walker! And meet the supporters who want him to increase taxes to fund billionaires' hobbies.

Pictured: Scott Walker Campaign HQ

I said yesterday I'd do anything I legally could do to try to Recall Scott ("Patsy") Walker, and I'm going to do my part.

So first, Jenni Dye, who most people know as @legaleagle, is asking people to make at least 10 phone calls from the online phone banks, reminding people to Vote for Barrett in the recall election. Find her post here, with links to the phone banks.

Second, as I did for autism research, we can speak directly to people who follow Gov. Patsy online; his ScottKWalker twitter feed has some 18,000 followers; tweeting to them about problems Gov. Patsy has may help the effort, too.  Education never hurts, and it's possible to educate people even at this late date.

Third, I'm going to post what I can to help that education, like today's post on Walker's meeting (?) with Joe Ricketts.  The Ed Show site reports, via John Nichols of The Nation and The Capitol Times, that Joe Ricketts gave $100,000 to Walker after a personal meeting with him.

I'm not in favor of campaign finance limits; I don't care if Ricketts gave $100,000,000 or more.  I'm in favor of information, though, about who's giving what, so here's some information about Ricketts, who wants Gov. Patsy to stay in power.

Ricketts made his money as the founder and CEO of Ameritrade, an online discount brokerage.  He also sold Bison meat and produced films, and eventually bought the Chicago Cubs.  Ricketts retired from Ameritrade in 2011 to be a "philanthropist," and the two highest-profile moves he's made in that regard so far were funding a Nebraska candidate in a Republican primary and a recently-announced campaign to spend millions to try to link Obama to Jeremiah Wright.  Ricketts had to distance himself from that latter campaign almost immediately. It's not clear whether the plan will still be tried.  It was commissioned by Rickett's group but apparently rejected.

Rickett also wants government money to pay 1/2 the cost -- or $150,000,000 -- for a new stadium for his Chicago Cubs, and part of his proposal for that payment is that the "amusement tax" he would increase would be shared, in perpetuity, with Rickett.

That is: A billionaire who owns a sports team and has money to spend on hateful campaigns wants a cut of government tax revenue.

I wonder what Gov. Patsy thinks about increasing taxes and giving some of the swag to billionaires? Has anyone asked him?

I wonder, too, what Rickett would do with the extra money he siphons off from increased government taxes to fund his hobbies? Probably not pay the Cubs' debts -- he's been noted by Major League Baseball to be in violation of league rules regarding debts, and that's true even though the Cubs had the highest average ticket price in baseball in 2010.  (Does Rickett, who is worth more than $1,000,000,000, enjoy soaking the middle class to fund his lifestyle? Only he knows!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

30 things "The Scream" is screaming, 13 (Is This Art?)

This is incredible.  All the hype over The Scream, and I didn't know any of this.  Watch this video:

So this article on HuffPo notes that the non-public version of The Scream

is kept locked in a vault so secure, I lost count of the number of elevators, electronically-coded doors and retinal scans that we passed through in order to arrive in the climate-controlled tomb where lies what may be the most iconic painting on earth, crated in a glass box.

And talks about the Munch Stones, a name I just coined, 200 or so white lithographic stones that Munch carved his designs into and then made prints from; Munch couldn't afford to keep the stones, and they've never been publicly displayed.

And it mentions that Munch created "over 40,000 works."

Over 40,000.

David Bowie once refused to play any of his hit songs for a concert tour.  I remember kind of sympathizing with him while also thinking he was a bit ungrateful -- people loved those songs, not his new stuff.  I imagine that U2, and Paul McCartney, and everyone else who's ever had a hit kind of felt the same way:  I'm sick of playing Jumpin' Jack Flash, they probably all think in one form or another.

Gilligan likely didn't want to be typecast as Gilligan.

So consider, today, the kind of success that leads you to be pigeonholed into the same thing over and over and over for all eternity, Grishaming your way through a grim existence in which you only sing the same song night after night, or only write the same book day after day.

Edvard Munch made 40,000 paintings and people know only one of them.  

Oh, and he died without getting paid any of the $119,900,000 The Scream sold for.  Although he seemed to live a pretty comfortable life after his early poverty, so I probably shouldn't make too much of that.

Today's caption:

Gilligan, little buddy!

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wherein I realize if I wasn't so distracted by farthingales I might pay more attention to the details of the plot. (Sundays With the Classics)

If I hadn't started re-reading Great Expectations this time around, I would not now know things like what pattens are.

There's a scene in Great Expectations where Estella comes to London and Pip is to meet her and they are to have tea before they take a coach up to Richmond.  Estella relays these instructions to Pip in a manner that lets him know that their actions are foreordained and Pip, while happy to spend a miserable time with her in the tearoom and on the coach, misunderstands her import: their actions are foreordained, sure, but not to have Estella end up with Pip. 

That scene, today, I noted, included a part where Pip, who is increasingly unlikeable and putting on airs (and getting deeply in debt, which kind of raises concerns because wasn't Jaggers supposed to draw him back when he slipped up?) says that one of the rooms in which he and Estella were to take tea was unsuitable because (in part) someone had left behind some pattens, and I was able to look up what pattens are, and they are this:

That's a type of overshoe, or, more aptly, undershoe worn to keep one's shoes or boots from getting wet in the muck that comprised the middle-ages' typical street.

See? I'm a better person for having read that.  I assume.

When Pip drops Estella off at the Richmond house, he notes that the house is old-fashioned: "a staid old house, where hoops and powder and patches,... had had their court days many a time," and I liked the description of the ringing-bell:

"an old voice-- which I dare say in its time had often said to the house, Here is the green farthingale, Here is the diamond-hilted sword, Here are the shoes with red heels and the blue solitaire."

When I read that, I wondered if those descriptions had any meaning to readers of Dickens' era, whether they would chuckle at the idea of the green farthingale calling at the Richmond-house, the way we might describe someone as "a Homer Simpson."  So I looked that up, too, and found the Stanford Victorian Reading project, which had a Discovering Dickens section about a decade ago, and it says that a farthingale is a kind of hoop skirt from the 16th century, while shoes with red heels were fashionable in the 1700s.  (Pip's in London in about 1820), and notes that swords were the only remnant of chivalric dress left over from when Queen Anne abolished that kind of clothing.  The solitaire, meanwhile, was worn in the court of Louis XV.

So I suppose the equivalent would be of us describing a house as though it had been visited by men in powdered wigs and flappers, with rebels in leather jackets beside them.  I'd expected it to be some kind of allusion to someone famous, though.

Through all of this looking stuff up, I also wondered this:  how many times did Pip actually see Estella when he was younger, and how old was he?  Pip first went to Miss Havisham's when he was like 10 or 11, I imagine, as he was seven when the novel opened.  He went there for a couple of years, I think, and he would have seen Estella a lot them; the novel kind of glosses over that period of time,  making it seem that Pip only goes to Havisham's a couple of times, but as I think about it, he would have seen her an awful lot.

Time is funny that way, in books and in movies.  I was commenting to Sweetie the other day that it seems remarkable to me that [SPOILER ALERT! JUST BECAUSE I KNOW THE ENDING DOESN'T MEAN YOU WANT TO] the people on Lost were only on the island for something like two months, total --  in part because so much happened and in part because the series took what, five years?  So it would make more sense to me if Jack and Sawyer and Kate and all were on there for five years, so that my time would jibe with their time.

Pip's kind of the opposite.  At the part of the book where I've just reached, he's come of age or soon will come of age, so the book's taken up about 12 years, and in my mind, that twelve years doesn't involve very much -- including very many contacts with Estella.  But I forget, as I'm reading it, that Pip glosses over the everyday details, focusing on the big events, so there are huge chunks of time where he was working as a blacksmith after Miss Havisham's, and huge chunks of time where he was visiting Miss Havisham and interacting with Estella.

So as I think about it, it's not so weird that Pip's head-over-heels in love with Estella, because he would have seen her a lot.  But as I read the book, it seemed strange because Pip only tells about 1 or 2 interactions with Estella when he's young, so as I'm reading the book, I'm continuously thinking "Man, he sees her like 2 times when he's young and he's hooked for life? Just how hot is this girl?"  Which threw me off a bit, until I sat down and mulled it over.

Also, at the end of my reading today, Pip's sister died, and he said it was the first time he'd had a grave open up in his life, or words to that effect, which made me immediately think No, your parents and siblings all died except for Mrs. Joe, but Pip was too young to remember them dying, of course.

And that made me think: remember that when you think that Mrs. Joe was mean:  she had her entire family die except for her and her  baby brother, who she then had to raise.  I mean, yeah, she could've been nicer, but there probably wasn't much in the way of grief counseling in those days -- beyond merely dressing the entire family up in swaddles of black, as Trabb was doing when I left off. 

30 Things "The Scream" is screaming, 12 (Is This Art?)

There's a website called The New Verse News.  They print previously unpublished progressive poetry (alliteration! brought to you by Literary Devices, Inc., TM) about current events.  Back on May 6, they put up this little gem:


Why not something restful, like
a still life by Morandi
you could contemplate and find
a sense of order in? Why not a landscape
by Constable to bring back trees
long since cut down? Why not
a Nolde watercolour
bright enough to burn your eyes?
You must have known
your walls will shudder as long
as they contain your new acquisition;
you must have bargained with
the sleepless nights spent listening
to a cry never stopping for breath.
How’s the demand for grief today?
There’s enough to go around:
it runs out of the faucets
when we turn them and a river’s last
drops trickle into our sinks;
it stands at the intersection with
a cardboard sign asking for a dollar;
it comes home from a war in
bandages. And every time you go
into the secret room you keep it in
to stare down the throat of every
person who can’t stand
the world they’re in, that the price
is always rising.

Today's caption:

 I wish I had thought of a 
cool line like 'how's the demand
for grief today'!



Caption 11

Caption 10

Saturday, May 19, 2012

30 Things "The Scream" is screaming, 11 (Is This Art?)

PT Dilloway knows his superheroes, but not his artists' media; his aghast (I assume) comment about whether artists were allowed to create things using crayon on cardboard and still call it "art" and get some rich idiot to pay $119,900,000 for it ignores such famous artists as Christian Faur, who not only once was predicted to handily beat the Yankees in the World Series but who also works in the "crayon" medium, devising a color alphabet to make poem-pictures that do something about semiotics.

I don't know what semiotics is, so let's move on to what Faur does in his "Crayon Series."  From his site:

For this body of work I have assembled more than 100,000 hand cast crayons of varying colors and shades to produce a body of work that, to the best of my knowledge, is unlike anything done before in art. 

These individual "pixels" of wax are precisely stacked into specific locations inside of wooden frames to produce a new art form that uniquely balances the qualities of both photography and sculpture. Further, I have developed a mapping system that translates the English alphabet into 26 discrete colors and I use these crayon "fonts" to add words and language to each of the pieces in the show. 

The product is a series of photorealistic landscapes and figurative images that are formed at the surface of the thousands of tightly packed crayon tips. The imagery that makes up this new body tends to focus on isolated elements represented as children, barns, water towers, etc. within indeterminate landscapes, which are intended to reference the individual crayon whose solitary existence, like that of the individual element, is rendered obsolete in the amalgamate. 

The direct representation of language in each piece further imbues the works with meaning and brings an aspect of color into each composition reminiscent of DNA coding. The alphabetic key at the lower left of each panel allows the viewer to interpret the individual words written throughout the various panels.

I believe that means that Christian Faur created life via a set of Crayolas.  He probably had that cool 128-crayon pack with the sharpener.  My mom would never get that one for us, although once she got me a 64-pack that opened its top like a mouth and so I drew robot arms and a face on it and used to have conversations with it in my mind:

Me:  Hi, Robot! How's your day?

Robot:  Apparently not as pathetic as yours.  You're talking to a cardboard box.

Me:  I need friends.

Good times.  Good times.    Here's something from Christian Faur:

That's called Umbilical SkyThe rest of his stuff is really worth checking out at his site.

Here's today's caption, because, remember, some dumb guy paid $119,900,000 to buy a poorly-drawn cardboard box.

Where did I lose my hairpiece?

Caption 10

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Skippy The Jedi Droid's Love Story? (The Great Star Wars Blogathon)

It's really tempting to give Rusty the points for yesterday's question if only because he's made great strides in getting past his Wookiephilia to start mentioning R2D2 -- who, I pointed out once on Twitter, had progressed so much through the six Star Wars movies that if Lucas had made a seventh, Artoo would have been the first 'droid Jedi.

But there was a 'droid Jedi -- a "non-canonical" one, but one nonetheless, these advances in civil rights are taken in baby steps, after all, like how we Americans finally elected a black president and then spent the next four years delegitimizing him so we never had to do that again -- the first 'droid Jedi being "Skippy, The Jedi Droid":

And he's not an R2 unit at all!  R5, "Skippy," to his friends, somehow was able to use the force to escape Jabba's palace and get on to the Jawa sandcrawler with R2 and C-3PO, and used Force suggestion first to get Uncle Owen to buy him, but then faked an explosion to get R2 bought, instead, because he had a vision that if R2 was left on the crawler everything would fall apart. 

When I went looking for a sample page of Skippy's adventures to post you, I came across this far more fascinating comic page:

When he wasn't creating Spider-Man and the other heroes you love, Stan Lee was writing "Our Love Story" comics.  That's from issue 16, which came out in 1969.  The girl in front kind of looks like Mary Jane, Spidey's second girlfriend, doesn't she?

And now, apropos of nothing, here's Question 80:  Which character in Star Wars was originally supposed to be a giant lizard?

By the way, Rusty, you did get 40 points for being the last commenter.

30 things "The Scream" is screaming, 10 (Is This Art?)

Could The Scream someday be worth as much as $59,950,000,000? Maybe -- if the same multiplier occurs as happened to this guy:

That's Zachary Bodish, of Columbus, Ohio, and he's holding a Picasso print that he found in an Ohio thrift store and bought for $14. Turns out the print is number 6 in a series that Picasso made, making it kind of an original (?) that Zachary Bodish, whose friends probably ought to call him Z-Bod, sold for $7000.

And he got that money even though nobody actually authenticated it as a real Picasso. So to recap: guy buys an old poster in a Goodwill, sells it for seven large.

I say it's kind of an original because the poster itself is a print from a linocut -- Picasso carved the print-mold and then posters were printed, with the first 100 or so in such a series generally being considered originals in that they were probably printed by the artist him- or herself, while later copies were made by others or were copies of copies, which are worthless, maybe.  Who knows? People who will pay $7000 for an unauthenticated copy of a Picasso poster might pay anything for anything.

(Other stories say there was some authentication of the origin of the poster done.)

Artists creating multiple copies of their works isn't limited to Picasso (who did the poster for the exhibition).  Edvard Munch made more than one The Scream, even, creating four copies total:

 And you know what they say:  It's really worth nothing unless you have the whole set.

Here's today's caption:

Hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla 
boobuhla hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla bop!



Thursday Scramble!

On Thursday Scramble! I take a post from one of my blogs and put it on all of them.  This post appeared this week on Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!, the sports blog for people who like sports but hate sports blogs.

I Dreamt Of Pole Vaulting is a new idea I'm trying out here:  essays about my own personal experiences with sports, whether as a fan or participant.  We'll see if it lasts.  Don't get too attached -- like avocados and fate, I can be fickle.)
I have always wanted to be a pole-vaulter.


Well, okay, maybe not always.  There was a time when I didn't dream of pole-vaulting, at all, but that time was when I was very young and had other dreams, like the dream of becoming an oceanographer.

Admittedly, I was not the coolest of little kids.

The dream of pole-vaulting first came to me sometime in the beginning stages of high school.  High school, and pole-vaulting for that matter, were not things that I was suited for.  As far as I can tell in my life, I am more or less perfectly suited to be a middle-aged man, in that the things I do either seem normal for a middle-aged man to do (reading The New Yorker, not even just for the cartoons, having a receding hair line) or are things about which I no longer care if society approves of (wearing blue Crocs in public, writing sentences like "about which I no longer care").  But I was not suited for high school, where sustained happiness can be hard to come by if you are not rich, good-looking, or both.  Of the two, rich is better:  You could be, in my high school, rich and not good-looking, and still be part of the popular crowd, while there were good-looking people (some, anyway) who were not part of the popular crowd because they could not keep up, clothing- and car-having-wise.

(There were only a few of the good-looking who were not also popular, because part of what makes you good-looking is being popular; once you are popular people judge others' looks by you, or so I assume, having never been popular.)

And once you were popular, everything was open to you:  girls, parties, girls, and I'm sure there were other things that people cared about in high school.

In actuality, everything really was open to you once you were popular, while nothing was open to you if you were not popular, and that includes sports, but not just sports.  Unlike many high schools*

*Note: I only attended one high school and have no information about other real high schools, because my own kids limited the amount of information they shared about their own high school experiences to three categories:  1: How much their teachers hated students, in general, 2: How much their teachers hated them in particular which was why they were getting such bad grades, and 3: a category I can only refer to as "I don't want to talk about it," which was their answer to every other question I asked, including questions like "Do you think your teacher would like you more if you turned in the homework when it was due, rather than long after?"  The point is, my information about high schools in general comes from watching John Hughes movies.  Picture Ally Sheedy liberally throughout this story.  She was kind of hot, back then.
my own high school did not break into cliques based on activities, so much.  Instead, activities were the province of the popular kids who got to choose what they would do and whether the unpopular or barely-noticed (I was more of the latter than the former) would get to take part at all.

So Student Council, which is only supposed to be a kind-of popularity based thing: reserved for popular kids like Dave Weber, who ran for student council president against me and who won and who then organized a boycott of the hot lunches.  Student newspaper: even though nominally run by the journalism class, which I took, was reserved for popular kids.  Unpopulars got to write things like "movie reviews," which never got published.

Even the plays and Swing Choir were reserved for the popular, something that makes me snicker when I watch Glee, which I never do anymore because honestly that musical gimmick gets old after a while.  I'm as fond of fake high schoolers singing covers of songs I never heard of as the next guy is, which is not very.  In our high school, the glee club was called swing choir and you could only get on it if you were already popular, as I found out the time I tried out for it by singing a version of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go (this was 1986, after all) and never got a call back.

"Trying standing still while you're singing it," the choir director told me, because apparently I had shifted my feet.  I didn't make the cut.  They must not have needed a fat guy with a lazy eye and a vocal range of three notes.  But I wouldn't have made it anyway even if I was a better singer, because we were not rich and I was not popular. (See, e.g., "lazy eye," and "fat.")(Also, I played Dungeons and Dragons.)

The really odd thing is that sports were reserved (mostly) for the popular at my high school, too, a weird twist on the traditional route to popularity -- get good at sports, movies and TV shows and books tell us -- and you can become popular, or at least accepted.  Or so I've gathered from my muddled memories of sports in pop culture.  Didn't that dirtbike-riding kid in The Bad News Bears become popular because he could play baseball?  Didn't people like Englebert after he could play baseball, too, in that same movie?  Didn't they make any other movies about kids playing sports besides The Bad News Bears?

All good questions that deserve investigation.

At our school, football and baseball and soccer and basketball were the province of the cool, and you tried out for them at your peril, literally:  I tried out for the baseball team and I was actually pretty good in the tryouts: my lazy eye made me terrible as a fielder but I was okay as a batter and the kid who was trying out for pitcher wasn't very good at all, so in batting practice on day one I was up to bat and got about 7 hits in a row, hitting them pretty well out to the outfield, too.

That should have at least gotten me a shout-out from the coach and maybe one or two potential teammates, because who doesn't want a good hitter on their team?  But the practice was really quiet as pitch number 8 came in and I hit that one, too.

Then pitch number 9 came straight at my head.  Straight. At. It.

I tried to duck away but not in time and got caught on the temple, just at the edge of the helmet, and it didn't do much other than really rattle me and make my head ache just a bit because it made the helmet hit my head hard.  So I stepped out of the box for a second, and the coach said "Get back in there!" and I had to step back in and before I even raised my bat the pitch number 10 hit me in the leg.

"Next batter!" the coach yelled.  I waited for him to tell me where to go stand in the field, to shag flies, but he didn't say anything.

"Where should I go?" I asked.

"Better shake off those pitches," he said.

The pitcher looked at me and shook his head.  I sat around until tryouts ended and didn't go back the next day.

I can't prove that it was all intentional and done because I wasn't cool but I can't not prove it, either, and that's more or less the same thing, right?

The exception to the coolness requirement in sports was track: you could get on the track team even if you weren't cool, because nobody much wanted to be on the track team and also the track team needed lots of people and so if you were on the track team you were not taking a spot away from a cool kid, you were just on the team.  I'm sure that if you were not cool and you were on the track team and you beat a cool kid, there might be repercussions, but I never found out what those were as there was no chance that I might beat a cool kid.

That accessibility might have been part of why I wanted to be a pole vaulter, but only part.  I wanted to be an athlete in high school, for obvious reasons: athletes are cool.  Even for a kid like me, who read comic books and Doonesbury and listened to the Violent Femmes and wrote short stories and liked the book Childhood's End when we read it in high school and once got a 108 on his British Literature essay exam, getting 8 points' extra credit when he hadn't even done the homework, even for that kid, sports held the allure of society's adulation and accomplishment.  Already, by ninth grade I'd been inculcated with how much people love athletes and how little they care for oceanographers: I'd seen my Mom, who hates sports, watching the Super Bowl, and we'd been dragged to the Little League All Star Game the year my older brother played in it, under the lights on the big baseball diamond at Nixon Park in Hartland, and all the kids played T-ball, even me, and the T-ball and Little League teams marched in the 4th of July parade, and our middle-school gym teacher, Mr Fry, was rumored to have once gotten a tryout as a kicker for the Denver Broncos, a legend that I was never able to verify but which shows just how little athletic accomplishment is necessary to elevate you above the pack.  I look back now and think:  Tryout? I think:  Kicker?  I think: DENVER BRONCOS? and I wonder why that was even worth repeating but repeated it was, year after year, as kids passed on the all-important information.

Sports trophies are displayed front and center in high schools.  You drive into towns and the Welcome signs have the local accomplishments on them, and those local accomplishments are always "Girls Volleyball Champions, 1991", and they never put on there "Three State Senators and a guy who started his own veterinary supply business lived here, back in the day."  The other day, listening to a story about some kids who took place in Mock Federal Reserve competition, which apparently is a thing, I heard the winner talk about the trophy they got to take back to their high school.  It would be displayed in the economics room, she said, because nobody else would probably care.

Imagine if you saw a sign that said Welcome to Middleton, Wisconsin -- home of the 2012 Mock Federal Reserve Champions!  You'd probably turn around.  The only thing that's not athletic at all but which regularly gets attention in a sort-of-comparable way to athletics is the spelling bee, which ESPN televises, now, but ESPN will put anything on the air to give the Sportscenter hosts a break to try to think up more stupid synonyms for home run ("Ryan Braun of the Brewers hits his third humdinger of the week, giving him 14 gnocchi-makers on the season and putting him on a pace to beat Hank Aaron's record for lifetime Breakin'2 Electric Boogaloos").

Study hard and get good grades, we're told as kids.  Brush your teeth and eat your vegetables, we're reminded.  But nobody gets put in the 4th of July parade for having finished off their broccoli and Hartland Meats, my old T-ball team, didn't sponsor kids' flossing.  Sports is where it's at, and especially when I was a kid, you were expected to be in sports.

Which, again: lazy eye.  Fat.  Comic books.  See where the problem might lie?

Which leads me to pole vaulting, and specifically how it fits into my life of sports, or sports attempts.  To reiterate:  the track team was at least potentially accessible to me, as a high school student -- I could try out for track without worrying about sustaining brain damage, or having to run against Dave Weber, or even having to think about not moving while I sang a song.

And I had three friends on the track team:  Fred, Bob, and Eric, all skinny guys who were able to run, and so run they did: sprints and longer runs, and I think even hurdles, and Fred and Bob and Eric bonded over their track events, taking the bus to track meets and talking about practice and, I don't know, being skinny, which was a big allure for me, too, and so I decided that I would try out for the track team.

And I hit on pole vaulting as my event.

To this day, I can't exactly describe why pole vaulting.  Here is what I think of when I think of pole vaulting:  I imagine me, in track shorts and a tank top and cool track shoes and wristbands and a headband, holding a pole.

That song from Chariots of Fire starts.  (I think it's called Chariots of Fire.)

I grimace.  I know what a grimace is because (a) I looked up once why the Grimace was called the Grimace and (b) I wanted to grimace in this imagining, but I wasn't sure what to call it.

After grimacing, I begin to run.  (That music is still playing.)

I run for a really long time, pole in hand, probably in slow motion.  This entire time, you are looking at me from the front, head-on, and I am determined.  Also, I look really cool in that headband, so shut up.

The pole plants, at a part where the music is dramatic. (I don't actually remember the song Chariots of Fire all that well and sometimes get it confused with Music Box Dancer.)

Then you see me from below, and I am soaring, rising up and over the pole, which in my imagination is something like 30 feet in the air.  I let go of the pole. (Music Box Dancer gets more dramatic, still, probably with a tympani).

I fall into the big mat, and people cheer.  Do people cheer pole vaulting? They do when a suddenly-skinny guy with lazy eye sets a world record and brings it, probably saving the town from an oil baron or something.

Then I get a date for the prom, too.

So I decided to try out for the track team.

PSSST! Hey, buddy!

Sorry for whispering, but I don't want to let this one company know that I've figured out how to get a free t-shirt!  I think there's a glitch in the matrix or something.  See, I kind of stumbled across this site that says if I send in a picture of my kid I can get a...



EVERYONE can do that?


Oh.  Well, forget the whispering, then.  I should shout it from the hilltop that you can get freebies by mail and all sorts of free deals at All Free Samples ( 

I would do that, too, except that hilltop is pretty tall and I'm sort of lazy.  So I'll just let you know that All Free Samples saves you the trouble of searching around the web for free stuff, and collects all the free things you want in one place, fromfree online dating services to free baby stuff to the aforementioned free t-shirt that you can get just by uploading a picture of your kid, and yeah I see it on the site now, thanks, I thought I was cool for finding it but I guess I was just a sucker.

In fact, the All Free Samples site has like twenty different listings for free t-shirts alone!  I might never have to buy a t-shirt again, and since a free t-shirt is among the best rewards a society can offer its citizens (I'll do almost anything if you give me a shirt saying I did it), All Free Samples is kind of like the Smithsonian of websites.  Is that right? I'm not sure what the Smithsonian does, other than keep live dinosaur skeletons around to torment Ben Stiller.  (That's in the museum's charter.)

Anyhow, the secret's out: You can get free stuff at All Free Samples.  Lots of free stuff.  More than just t-shirts.  I'm not sure why you're still reading this.  GO!