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.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Art as a Creative Endeavor : Edward Burne-Jones

Phyllis and Demophoon by Edward Burne-Jones, 1870
watercolor on paper,  93.8 x 47.5 cm (36.9 x 18.7 in)

The Tree of Forgiveness by Edward Burne-Jones, 1882
oil on canvas, 190.5 × 106.7 cm (75 × 42 in)

In 1870, Edward Burne-Jones exhibited Phyllis and Demophoon
Phyllis, Queen of Thrace, falls in love with Demophoon, son of Theseus. He departs but promises to return in six months' time. When he fails to keep his promise, Phyllis hangs herself, and is turned by the gods into an almond tree. On his eventual return, Demophoon remorsefully embraces the tree, which blooms, as Phyllis emerges to forgive and reclaim her faithless lover.
Both Phyllis and Demophoon are modelled on Maria Zambaco, with whom Burne-Jones had been having an affair since June 1868 (a host of studies exist for both figures, in various locales). And for this reason, in conjunction with Demophoon's nudity, a controversy ensued when it was exhibited at the Old Watercolour Society for the Summer Exhibition of 1870. Within two weeks of the exhibition's opening, Burne-Jones withdrew the painting due to complaints, and two works by other artists were exhibited in its place. In August 1870, Burne-Jones resigned from the Society, over artistic integrity.
In the catalogue for the Summer Exhibition at the Old Watercolour Society, Burne-Jones included the following caption, a quote from Ovid: 'Dic mihi quid feci? Nisi non sapienter amavi' [Tell me what I have done? I loved unwisely.] Burne-Jones later reworked the painting entirely in oils, transforming the bodies of both Phyllis and Demophoon into an homage to Michelangelo, calling it 'The Tree of Forgiveness' (1882, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight), where Zambaco's face remains only on Phyllis.

The Tree of Forgiveness, 12 years later,  is about life sized. The figures are not identical to the previous version but they are remarkably similar and the concept is the identical. The colors are different. in the 1870 painting Demophoon looks slight and ashen.

The drapery in Phyllis and Demophoon covered Phyllis' body along with her arm covering her breast and the magical drapery wrapped itself around Demophoon's leg without providing him any modesty (modesty in the sense of avoiding impropriety or indecency but modest in the sense of "a small amount" could be used to describe him). In contrast, in The Tree of Forgiveness magical drapery covers his manhood and flowingly wraps around his leg and only his leg while she is exposed fully nude.

It is interesting that Michelangelo depicted women by drawing men and the "feminizing" them and Burne-Jones in Phyllis and Demophoon drew a woman and then "masculinized" the figure.

An attempt to show the scale of the pictures.

below the fold is an animated gif contrasting the two.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Movie Notes : Magritte : An attempt at the Impossible

from the movie Magritte : An attempt at the Impossible (2007)

E.L.T. Mesens on left and Louis Scutenaire on the right

Narrator : "Louis Scutenaire (known as Scoot) …"the enemy of poetry is work." He was employed in the Ministry of the Interior."

Saturday, June 11, 2016

bad graph : Washington Post's abortion map

The lesson of this bad graph is don't just look at the graph but read the text.

from the Washington Post is this 2013 article by Sarah Kliff.

1. Before the Roe decision, most states did not allow legal abortion.

while the map does paint a certain picture by referring to "repeal" and "reform" of abortion laws. and the subhead says "most states did not allow legal abortion" the text walks that back considerably :
...Through the mid-1960s, 44 states outlawed abortion in nearly all situations that did not threaten the life or health of the mother. States began liberalizing their abortion laws in the 1960s and 1970s. This map shows the situation in the early-1970s, when Roe was decided.

The four maroon states legalized abortion in nearly all cases before the fetus was viable. The 14 pink states allowed abortions in some circumstances. Nearly all others continued to ban abortion in most cases.
This source lists the reformed group as : Colorado, North Carolina, California, Georgia, Maryland, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Oregon, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida. I only count 13 which is also the count on the map.

The part I bolded hollows out the headline. So, the subhead should read "1. Before the Roe decision, most states DID allow legal abortion."  And the map should look different.

Note that unlike Kliff I include both a map showing an accurate representation of the subhead and also a map detailing what abortion laws actually looked like.

note that I haven't looked into  the specific restrictions of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey's laws outlawing "unlawful" or "unjustified" abortions and what a lawful or justified abortion would be. The source used for the map (Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing April 1972) does note that in contrast to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, New Jersey had a higher abortion rate than almost any other state.
Note #2 : I'm not sure what the previous laws in Wisconsin and Texas were. Texas, where Roe v Wade originated, did include an allowance for rape.
Note #3 (added Oct 2016) : Washington DC, which I didn't place on the map would be black like Texas and Wisconsin (abortion laws had been invalidated by the courts pre-Roe vs Wade)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

movie notes / Bad statistics : Philomena (2013)

Philomena (2013) starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench.

The son's sister : "He wasn't too happy the last years of his life, working for Reagan. He was pretty messed up about it."
Steve Coogan's character : "The Republicans withdrew funding for AIDS research because they blamed the epidemic on the gay lifestyle."
And yet the budget went up every single year throughout Reagan's term (table below from linked pdf).

Update (Nov 12, 2017; nearly a year and a half later LOL) : It dawned on me that Congress appropriates funding. Hmmm, who was in charge of Congress?
When Reagan took office House 244 (D) to 191 (R), Senate 46 (D) to 53 (R) and one independent
1983-85  House 272 (D) to 163 (R), Senate 45 (D) to 55 (R)
1985-87 House 253 (D) to 182 (R), Senate 47 (D) to 53 (R)
1987-89 House 258 (D) to 177 (R), Senate 47 (D) to 53 (R)
The final weeks of the Reagan administration : House 251 (D) to 183 (R), Senate 55 (D) to 45 (R)

So throughout Reagan's term, the Republicans never were even close to a majority in the House and except for the very end where they became a minority they had a slight majority in the Senate but at no point had a filibuster proof majority.

Monday, May 30, 2016

They're not egalitarians : Gender Gap Report 2015

The WEF Gender Gap Report 2015 (the report has been previously mentioned)

Russia is still at the top of the list (page 62) when it comes to equality of life expectancy. That is to say that there is an enormous gender gap between men and women but since the gap favors women the authors count that as "equality"

Australia (page 90) is still a sexist, misogynistic hell-hole because the Healthy Life expectancy is 74 for women and 71 for men. Of course, the Gender Gap Report defines this as the 3 year gap suffered by men as a gap where women are behind as they only count it as "equality" if women live 6% longer than men or longer.

Kazakhstan's sex ratio data (p216) is still wrong. The ratio shows male:female ratio while is is supposed to show female: male.

Note that the vertical dashed line indicates "equality." Since women do better than men they truncate the score at the "equality" benchmark because they don't want anyone to think men might fall behind (see page 5 of the report).  So, if you look at the 6th column of numbers you can see 1.06 is for sex ratio at birth and Healthy Life Expectancy is 1.14 but in the second column shows the truncated scores of 0.94 and 1.06 respectively.

They do 3 things with the data to generate the category score:
1) the convert to ratios to focus on differences between males and female scores

2) they truncate the data at their "equality" benchmark (ie with Healthy Life Expectancy they define equality as women living 6% longer than men; therefore with the Russian Life Expectancy Ratio at 1.20 they truncate the score to 1.06.) They don't want anyone to know if there is a gender gap where men suffer. "We find the one-sided scale more appropriate for our purposes, as it does not reward countries for having exceeded the parity benchmark."

3) the subcategory score is calculated with weighted average. A weight of 0.693 for sex ratio and 0.307 weight for HLE.  I think they calculated the weights (page 7) without allowing for their defining the more significant number as less than one and consequently even with perfect scores it'll always show women suffering inequality.

World Economic Forum logo -Committed To Improving The State Of The World
WEF logo - Committed To Improving The State Of The World (unless you are a guy)

Update :  Interestingly, they have been producing reports every year for 10 years and have gotten media attention with every report but no one noticed that the weighting was wrong. One would think it would be a clue when a country has men suffering a gender gap in health subcategories that they report that as women suffering a gender gap in the category. How depressing that they put so much effort into collecting the report each year and after all these years I seem to be the only person to take a close look at it. 

"The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women” prevalent in many countries with a strong son preference. Second, we use the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy."

The idea of "missing women," according to the abstract to the paper "Missing Women : Revisiting the Debate" referenced in the Gender Gap Report, is premised on "the number of females who had died as a result of unequal access to resources in parts of the developing world." Interesting that an "unequal access to resources" when it comes to men is seen as insignificant.

Update #2 (June 14, 2016) : I emailed some of the people listed on the report about this with no response after a week.

But I did notice that on page 11 they list the Health & Survival category and mark countries with a score of 0.980 as achieving parity (at least parity since the truncate the scores.) However, the chart they use to display each country's score in comparison to the sample average suggests that 1.0 is the standard of equality and Austria, for example is behind with regards to health.

I would also note that if they used equal values (ie a score of 1 for equality in each subcategory) then the weighting would work.

If the Gender Gap Report used the simple measure of life expectancy equality (results being equal to mean equality as opposed to insisting that women living 6% longer than men as "equality") then 138 out of 145 countries would have men suffering a gender gap, 4 would have equality and 3 would have women suffering a gender gap (page 62).

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Writer and the former editor of Popular Woodworking magazine Christopher Schwarz is an interesting, although at times, an idiosyncratic writer. I've read some of his work and he seems knowledgable, if opinionated, about his subjects.

Here, he relates a tale from his days as an editor at a large publisher :

A few weeks before the summit, Japan had been rocked by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Like many other companies, we’d helped the relief effort by donating a portion of all sales during a special corporate-wide event.

We were briefed on how much money went to relief efforts – plus how revenue had increased dramatically overall as a result of the additional sales in our online stores. Then the highest-ranking person in the room made a proposal, and that’s when the floor fell out below my chair.

“We should find one natural disaster per financial quarter and run a similar promotion corporate-wide,” he said.

My head spun and I started saying stupid things. I remember asking how many people would have to die for it to be counted as significant enough to hold a special promotion. Would domestic disasters be better than international ones? I’m not sure what else I said, but I should have kept my mouth shut.

in the comments he explains :

Lost Art Press says:
March 25, 2016 at 9:25 am
The reason to run the disaster promotion was to increase revenue, not to help people.

Chris deserves credit for being willing to admit that he opposed and mocked the idea raising money for people in need because, while the publisher did raise money for a good cause, the publisher had insufficiently pure motives. I'm sure people suffering from a disaster would rather go without than accept money raised by a publisher knowing that the publisher had also taken in additional revenue.

I suppose one solution to that would simply have been to ask them if they would like help even though the publisher increased revenue or perhaps to not tell the suffering that the publisher had increased sales... but oh well. 

Hopefully, he isn't really a sadist and doesn't really hate the poor, the imperiled and the suffering. I suspect it is a case of hating someone (the boss) or something (the corporation) that overwhelmed his ability to consider other factors.

Friday, March 18, 2016

flashing light

A Yarra councillor wants to see more ‘green and red lady’ pedestrian signals installed across the inner city to promote gender equality. 
Yarra Council and VicRoads announced yesterday the silhouette of a woman would be installed at a new pedestrian crossing in Richmond. 
 Crossing the street shouldn’t be a problem. By the looks of her, she’s from an era that predates cars. Those skilled in the dark arts of photoshop are invited to submit a more modern design.

My submission : 
I figure if the light flashes it'll get people's attention (if it were animated it'd be even better).

Update: animated gif below the fold

Friday, March 11, 2016

How Orwellian : the censor censoring the censor

An old article (1986) from the days of Sandinistas running Nicaragua about their censor/ propagandist Nelba Blandon

On Jan. 21, 1986, we [opposition newspaper La Prensa] received an interview with Nelba Blandon on censorship, by an AP correspondent named Eloy A. Aguilar. We tried to publish it under the headline: "Blandon Comments on Censorship," but the censor's decision was: "DO NOT PUBLISH." On Aguilar's next visit he asked Blandon why the interview, which he considered accurate, was not published. The censor answered: "Because the statements I made were for publication abroad, not for publication in Nicaragua."
As an aside I would point to this previous article from 1983 where Nelba Blandon admits that the Sandinistas censored newspaper coverage of Poland or the Soviet war in Afghanistan and she says :

''Now we are determined to let them say what they want, except about military matters or questions of product shortages, two themes that could cause panic in the country if not handled carefully,'' Lieutenant Blandon said in an interview." 

Apparently, having the censor being a military member, who by 1986 had been promoted to Captain, makes the censor's conversations a "military matter" and therefore censorable. And this :

Nicaragua's press censor is Lieut. Nelba Blandon, a 24-year-old lawyer whose wit and intelligence serve to soften the image given by the military uniform she wears to work and the pistol she carries on her hip. 
I must admit that I am surprised that the NY Times would describe a gun toting military censor of the press in such flattering terms.

Also interesting is the idea that the censor demands that people being censored pretend the censorship doesn't exist :

Along with photocopies of every page of the paper we send the censor two pages of material that we call "stuffing" -- articles that can be substituted for censored stories. La Prensa has been unable to publish on 40 occasions because the censor could not find adequate material to substitute for censored stories. It is prohibited to leave any blank space on a page or in any other way give the impression that the paper has been censored.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Orwellian : Julian Assange's "confinement"

The PR statement from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy.  Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange.  The Working Group found that this detention is in violation of Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, and falls within category III as defined in its Methods of Work
Getting arrested while having a warrant filed is being arbitrarily detained? Then he was let out on bail with terms requiring he have a permanent address is not the same as house arrest and not the same as being arbitrarily detained.  The euphemism "his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy" to describe the claim of arbitrary detention elides that he confined himself there. Pity all the fugitives from justice who can't move freely without fear of being arrested.

The full report including the dissent is here (.docx file)

Who is the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention?
Members of the Working GroupMr. Seong-Phil Hong
Republic of Korea, since 2014
Mr. José Guevara
(Mexico), since 2014
(First Vice-Chair)
Mr. Sètondji Adjovi
(Benin), since 2014
(Second Vice-Chair)
Ms. Leigh Toomey
(Australia), since 2015
Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky
(Ukraine), since 2010
A five member group with the majority of the group having a variation of the title "chair." Presumably, the other two have to stand.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Obama on the space program, 2016 "Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there."

Obama on the USA losing its AAA credit rating, 2011 : "Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America.  No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country. "

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Erasing the Past : North Korean TV News

From the documentary movie "The Propaganda Game"

Narrator : "When we went to the North Korean  TV to get  archive footage, they told us they needed to erase the traitor Jang Song-thaek first."