Open Thread: Arcs and Sparks

I’m writing most of this post nearly a week before this will actually publish. Since I first began blogging 15 years ago, I can’t think of a time when I couldn’t write a casual, evergreen piece without worrying what would happen between the time I first began typing and the post published. Now? I hope the Reichstag fire of our age has not been sparked by the time you read this and I finish clicking the Schedule Post button.

I guess if the Fire 2.0 has come, you’re probably too busy to read this anyhow. Why should I worry?

This week’s featured art is by Polish painter Jacek Malczewski. I had the privilege once of seeing some of his work during a trip to Europe. Words can’t convey the intensity, the palpable power of his painting. It feels as if it will fall out of the canvas at one’s feet in a fury of energy. This particular piece, Melancholia, is probably his most famous. It traces a narrative arc from left to right — how very western! — which nearly spills over the front bottom edge of the 4.5-foot by 8-foot canvas. The arc describes emergence of both the artist and Poland, from conception in the interior of an artist’s studio toward the open window and the sunlight beyond, from insurgency and exile to Young Poland of age and strife. The window’s sill forms a barrier, a limit beyond which death may exist, but whose limit, whose death? what an amazing amount of content crammed into this painting; I wish I could have found a better digital image to do it justice.

I asked in last Saturday’s open thread/art post for readers to consider this untitled piece by Zdzisław Beksiński. Beksiński may have been inspired by Malczewski’s Melancholia in his depiction of a surrealist gothic arc; this one is so dark, so tight that a narrative is nearly impossible to decipher. It, too, emerges from the left and transits to the right, but from a bright formless void to a bricked up exit. It is more melancholy than Malczewski’s work in its darkness. One of Beksiński’s more obvious nods to Malczewski’s Melancholia spells out ‘Melancolia’ without the frantic rush of history’s sweep — only death and decay.

You can find a nice selection of Malczewski’s work at this link, and a solid overview of his career as a Polish symbolist at

Non-arts stuff (if it’s not mentioned here, bring your topic downstairs in comments):

PGA Tour — Okay, I admit it, maybe one of the pasty white guys in golf togs might have mixed it up and added a little excitement this week — by slapping an alligator. Youngster Cody Gribble chased the reptile into a pond and then finished his round; sadly, at six over after Day 2, Gribble isn’t expected to make the cut. The tour’s at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando this week. Kind of a shame I’m rooting for more gators on the course in the deep rough.

NCAA March Madness — Live bracket here. A bunch of whining about the NBA’s one-and-done rule here, possibly explaining away any boring matches which are complained about here. C’mon, these players are teenagers, well-trained but still like puppies. Stop expecting miracles.

And who knew that guys schedule their vasectomies in March so they can lie about and watch basketball while nursing their bruised ‘nads? But you can only use that excuse once, dudes. Next year you can schedule a hernia repair. Make plans now to lift something obscenely heavy in December or January.

NFLThe draft. Because somebody noticed I omitted it on first pass last week. ~shrug~ Must say NFL is a dreadful abuser of autoplay embedded video.

Football — No, the other football. UEFA Europa League competition starts soon, with quarter-final draw yesterday. Check the matches here. UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw also made with next games scheduled for April 11-12. Some drama in Europa League surrounding the win over Russia’s FC Rostov involving a banana. Sadly, not as exciting as a golfing alligator.

NASCAR — At Phoenix International Raceway this week for the XFINITY Series DC Solar 200 (first short track this year) on Saturday and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 on Sunday.

NHL — I give up. Detroit Red Wings are still in the goddamn basement of the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. You go and make up your own filler here after reading the current standings. And I am really sick of the girls rubbing Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn photos in my face, going on and on about Tyler’s abs. This week’s win over Vancouver Canucks forced me to shut off my Twitter notifications because of the flood of photos.

NBA — I just don’t care. Although I must say I laughed out loud when I noticed the top story in my feed was this one. Oh yeah, that’ll change everything.

MLB — Same. And really, is there such a desperate need for content that writers are reduced to stories like this? Here’s a mid-spring training report, but holy wah, what a godawful layout on desktop displays. You’ve been warned.

If I missed something, bring it downstairs with you and share.

32 days until Tax Day deadline. Do you know where your deductions are?

Open Thread: Don’t Forget Poland!

Recall the quaint mid-Oughts during the 2004 presidential debates, when Dubya corrected his opponent John Kerry with, “You forgot Poland!

Ah, those were the days, when an illegal war and torture were our biggest concerns.

Unlike now when nearly everything liberal democracy represents is in flames and ashes.

Last month I looked at a couple of works by Norwegian artist Munch; his Angst and The Scream still speak to us about existential crises. This month I want to look at a few works by Polish artists who also seem relevant to our condition.

Like Zdzisław Beksiński’s The Trumpeter featured here; how fitting with its many-fingered creepy playing. It’s fairly contemporary, published in 1983, and used as cover art for metal band Artestor’s album, ‘Omen’. Beksiński characterized his art as baroque or gothic. Hard to argue against this description given the wealth of dark detail. Some of Beksiński’s work reminds me of Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s monstrous surrealism like that used in the film Alien.

Take note of this piece featured in a write-up about Beksinski in a favorite art magazine. I’ll make reference to it next weekend when I look at another Pole’s work.

Sadly, Beksiński was murdered in 2005 for refusing to loan a young man some money. He left behind a wealth of work which will stir our imaginations for years to come. You can find more of his work at Dmochowski Gallery online.

Non-artsy stuff:

NCAA Basketball‘s March Madness begins on Tuesday. ESPN has key tournament dates. NCAA offers a bracket challenge to follow along.

NHL Hockey regular season ends April 9. Come on, Red Wings, please don’t finish this season dead last. Only a month to claw over the bottom two. For crying out loud don’t roll over for the NY Rangers on Sunday or I’ll never hear the end of it from the girls. It’ll be all “Oh, that Mats Zuccarello this and that, he’s so cute…” Just, no.

PGA Tour is at Innisbrook Resort for the Valspar Invitational this weekend. Thankfully for tourney players and attendees Innisbrook is in Palm Harbor, Florida — the opposite side of the state from Mar-a-Lago. I can’t get excited about the tour, though; these guys at the top of the leader board are like watching paste set up.

NASCAR this week is in Las Vegas for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. So redundant, that line, but it is what it is. Not my thing, but I need to pay attention to this since my prospective son-in-law is a big NASCAR fan.

UPDATE 2:32 PM EST NFL Free Agency because somebody downstairs noticed I had ignored a professional sport about which I don’t care, now in post-season. You’ll notice I didn’t originally mention the NBA (one month left in regular season) or the MLB (three weeks before regular season opening day) or the MLS (regular season started a week ago) either.

Next thing you know somebody will ask, “What about horse racing?” Yeah. And what about Poland?

That’s a wrap. This is an open thread — bring your arts and sports and whatever here which doesn’t belong in topic threads.

Expectations of Light Ahead


This painting by Swedish painter Carl Larsson, dated 1904, depicts a Christmas Eve gathering. Family members present are not giddy but quietly enjoying the prospect of the feast they will share, set out before them. Snow falls outside in the growing dark as candle and fire light fills the space within. The picture is illuminated as well by the serving girl’s soft smile – she and what she bears, created by human hands, are as important and warming as the light within the room.

Tonight in my household we are making Swedish cookies from a recipe left to us by a departed family member. We laugh over happy memories we shared with them, and now make new memories over this messy communion flavored with cinnamon, sugar, and too much butter. The fun and memories are as important as the cookies themselves; they create the foundation for decades of holidays yet to come.

I hope you are also someplace warm and happy tonight, enjoying pleasant memories and making more. Do something joyful, whether for yourself or others, even if you are alone. Embrace the expectation of increasing light in the days ahead.

And I wish Marcy and Mr. Wheel, Jim, bmaz, Ed, their families, and all the rest of the Emptywheel crew and community a very happy and peaceful Christmas.