Monday, January 23, 2017

Bad graph : Requiem for the American Dream (2015)

A Bad Graph from the movie Requiem for the American Dream (2016) at about 42 minutes in

the graph is labeled at left  "% of total tax revenue"


Noam Chomsky : During the period of great growth of the economy the 50s and the 60s, but in fact earlier, taxes on the wealthy were far higher. Corporate taxes were much higher, taxes on dividends were much higher, simply taxes on wealth were much higher. The tax system has been redesigned , so that the taxes that are paid by the very wealthy are reduced and correspondingly, the tax burden on the rest of the population is increased.

My first thought was that "% of total tax revenue" meant the percentage of all Federal tax revenue – which seemed like an odd measure. My second thought was that graph sure doesn't show much in way of business cycles. That would be because they labeled it "% of total tax revenue" instead of the less ambiguous "tax rate." It turns out that the tax rate on "dividends were much higher" but the "taxes that are paid by the very wealthy are" increased and, contrary to Chomsky, not "reduced."

graph showing capital gains tax rate and the inflation adjusted revenue


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towards the end

The tendencies we've been describing within American society; unless they are reversed, it's going to be an extremely ugly society. It's a society based on Adam Smith's vile maxim: all for myself, nothing for anyone else. A society in which normal human instincts and emotions of sympathy and solidarity and mutual support are driven out. That's a society so ugly I don't know who would want to live in it. I wouldn't want my children to. 
If only Adam Smith had some sort of Theory of Moral Sentiments. Of course, "all for myself, nothing for anyone else," was described by Adam Smith as a "vile maxim" and was not his vile maxim.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

She's a ninja! : Riddick (2013)

"She's a ninja!" is what a want to exclaim when I see a TV show or a movie where, usually, a beautiful, small framed woman beats up some guy who is bigger than her. 

At around 1:03 in the movie Riddick (2013), the sequel to Pitch Black (2000) and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), is an especially egregious example of this. The girl, Dahl played by Katee Sackhoff, after hitting the character Santana (Jordi Mollà) several times faces retaliation. He hits her, throws her on the floor and gets on top of her and she struggles futilely.



When they reappear in the next scene she is fine while Santana, a fully grown man who probably outweighs her by quite a bit, is bloodied, disheveled and has left a pool of his blood on the floor. How exactly she managed this is unclear.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Art as a Creative Endeavor : Norman Rockwell vs Michelangelo

Not plagiarism, exactly, but more of an homage.


Sistine Chapel, Prophet Isaiah by Michelangelo, circa 1542-1545

Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, 1943
Note that Norman Rockwell's picture includes a halo.

an animated gif comparing them below the fold.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Art as a Creative Endeavor : Caravaggio vs Rubens

The Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio, 1602-04

The Entombment of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens, 1612-1614

Peter Paul Rubens painted the altarpiece for the same church, Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome, that hired Caravaggio to produce the chapel painting "The Entombment of Christ." He must have seen Caravaggio's work and been impressed. Or he thought he could improve it.

Interesting how faithful Rubens copies parts of Caravaggio's work but he also dramatically changes the composition. The man at the left in red (John the Evangelist) is moved significantly in pose and in position although his hand remains positioned on Christ's wound. The head of Christ is changed, as is the head of Nicodemus, holding Christ's legs. The hair of both have changed. The Italian Caravaggio had given them black hair while the Flemish Rubens gave them lighter hair I would guess to make it more relatable to the local audience or more relatable to himself. The color of Nicodemus' clothes is also changed.

The stone slab is more unfinished and painterly in Rubens' version. Rubens omits the plant at lower left.

Rubens also omits the woman with her arms upraised (Mary of Cleophas) probably because when people look at Caravaggio's version they connect her with the stout man legs below her belonging to Nicodemus. Mary Magdalene with her hand to her head and her head down is modified only slightly. The older woman would be the Virgin Mary which Rubens changed radically and added another woman beside her. Personally I like Caravaggio's Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene in parallel next to each other with their heads bowed down together like a visual stutter.

Rubens painted several variations of the subject, perhaps the subject for future post.

As a bonus, Caravaggio's entombment of Christ as drawn by Paul Cezanne
The Entombment of Christ by Paul Cezanne

An attempt to show the scale of the paintings. The Caravaggio appears larger than life size.

below the fold is an animated gif comparing them

Bad graph : Washington Post abortion graph #2



from the Washington Post is this 2013 article by Sarah Kliff titled "CHARTS: How Roe v. Wade changed abortion rights". The map from this article was previously mentioned here.


5. Abortion has become increasingly concentrated among low-income, minority women. Over the past four decades, the demographics of abortion have shifted significantly. In 1973, white women accounted for over three-quarters of all abortions. Now, that number hovers just below 60 percent.

In 1973, white women had over 75% of abortions at a time when white women were an even larger segment of the population (87.7% of the population at the 1970 census). Although she says "Now, [article written in 2013] that number hovers just below 60 percent" for some unexplained reason her graph only goes up to 2004. The word "now" has to do a lot of work to cover nearly a decade. In the 2000 census whites were 75.1% and in the 2010 census whites were 72.4%. So the big news is that as national demographics changed so did the demographics of abortion. Quelle Surprise.

An even better comparison would be to breakdown the demographics by women of childbearing age or by pregnancies.

Her assertion about low income women getting a greater share of abortions is backed by a graph. That makes it odd that she would lead with and write more text about this weaker conclusion.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Art as a creative endeavor : Adolf Hitler

The pictures of Adolf Hitler's watercolor paintings are from the TV show "Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds : A Tale of 3 Cities" (2014) Season 1 Episode 1 "Vienna 1908" from BBC Four. The show covers three cities at particular times and their creative output.

First let me mention how annoying this presenter is. Dr. James Fox (not to be confused with the black Jamie Foxx)  is a total ham and makes a variety of assertions which he states with confidence but usually doesn't back them up.

Adolf Hitler spent 1905 to 1913 in Vienna, Austria as an aspiring artist. Below are the 3 examples of Hitler's work shown. I suggest that one of them might have been drawn from a photograph and that the other two were almost certainly drawn using a photographic reference.

St Charles Church (Karlskirche), Vienna watercolor by Adolf Hitler

The two columns are not parallel and they aren't the same height. The columns lean away from one another. The perspective of the capital at the top of the columns looks about correct but the top of the column on the left was drawn too high so it doesn't quite look right. When drawing from a photo sometimes the focus on copying means you miss the position of the details within the whole.



Austrian Parliament (Österreichisches Parlament) building watercolor by Adolph Hitler
in the background at center left is the Votivekirche church spires and to the right is the Burgtheater.

The first thing is the bird's eye perspective. It is possible that he went across the street from the parliament and drew it from the 3rd or 4th floor of the building across the street but it is doubtful.

This picture postcard of the Austrian Parliament and the drawing are very, very similar.  

photograph of the Austrian Parliament dated 1906

Now just because the perspective is the same doesn't mean he copied it from the photo. He could have coincidentally chosen the same viewpoint as the photographer. It could just be a coincidence that he included nothing outside of the boundaries of the photograph. He may have even chosen essentially the same composition. But would he have coincidentally included pedestrians (and a streetcar) in nearly the exact same places as in the photograph? 




But the third shown is the coup de grâce.
Vienna National Theater watercolor by Adolph Hitler
The presenter says about this :
"It's not hard to see why Hitler didn't get in [to the Vienna art school]. When you compare him with his contemporaries his quaint pictures of Vienna's historic landmarks seem embarrassingly old fashioned. This is a typical watercolor by Adolph Hitler. I'm slightly pained to admit that its not that bad. There is plenty of precise architectural detail, there is some evidence of perspective and actually his handling of the paint brush is quite confident. But you know what I find so interesting about it? This building, the National Theater, didn't even exist. In fact it had been demolished 20 years before Hitler even arrived in Vienna. But that's because Hitler was painting Vienna a hundred years out of date. A harmonious and eternal Vienna, the city that would never die."

This is what I mean by him making assertions and then failing to back them up. Did Hitler draw the building because it was an essential element of eternal Vienna or what I think is far more likely : he drew the building because that is what his reference photo showed. And if it had been demolished years before he arrived in Vienna how would he know it was part of eternal Vienna and how could he have included precise architectural detail of a building he had never seen.

If you didn't dislike Hitler before you should now that I've shown he was a cheater; a mere copyist and tinter of photographs taken by other people.