Friday, December 22, 2017

Elissa Strauss of CNN is an idiot

I'm embarrassed on CNN's behalf for this article they published (and I assume they paid money to publish). The article is basically the author reading web forum, quoting from it and then offering her own opinion. I would guess it is clickbait in the form of "Hey, look at this dumb pile of words! That can't be real can it? (click)"

The article, filed under health for some reason as opposed to mindless wanking, is titled : "Why kids love 'fascist' cartoons like 'Paw Patrol' and 'Thomas'"
Among these cartoons' many critics exists a subgroup of parents who are OK with some degree of autocracy and Manichean dualistic politics but just wish they would be presented with more nuance.
Manichean means everything is either black or white which they're ok with if it has more nuance so everything isn't either black or white.

Bonus dumbness from the story highlights bulletpoints :
"Thomas the Tank Engine" and "Paw Patrol" have been eviscerated by the press and on social media 
By which the author means by almost nobody.

Second bonus dumbness :
Here's an idea, gratis, for the creative team behind of "Paw Patrol" and "Thomas," should they want to broaden their appeal to parents without alienating their fan base: Ryder and Sir Topham Hatt retire and are replaced by their equally domineering sisters. This, in turn, boosts the social status of all the non-male characters. Children would still get the satisfaction of immersing themselves in an orderly universe where rules are rules, and everyone is in his or her place. Just without the white guy on top.
Just to be clear, Elissa Strauss is A-OK with what she describes as fascist if it isn't a white guy on top.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ancient Sumerian part 2

I had previously and quite briefly looked at the ancient Sumerian language.

Those Sumerians had some peculiar religious beliefs. How odd that they would worship the cat from the Mr Bean cartoon.
Right there below the tail

I suppose it could be a star which would fit with its also meaning the heavens. 

Or an asterisk which would have the odd effect of suggesting that a foot note is a call out to god. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How Orwellian : David Horsey is an idiot

from an article by David Horsey since pulled due to hyperventilating about the wrong insult :
Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not look like the kind of woman Donald Trump would choose as his chief spokesperson. Much like Roger Ailes when he was stocking the Fox News lineup with blond Barbie dolls in short, tight skirts, the president has generally exhibited a preference for sleek beauties with long legs and stiletto heels to represent his interests and act as his arm candy.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and wife Melania are the apotheosis of this type. By comparison, Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. Rather than the fake eyelashes and formal dresses she puts on for news briefings, Sanders seems as if she’d be more comfortable in sweats and running shoes. Yet, even if Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for a press secretary, he is lucky to have Sanders.

I'm not offended by the incredibly mild insult of calling her a "slightly chunky soccer mom" because I don't think "soccer mom" should be an insult and "slightly chunky" is hardly the worst insult hurled in politics.

I'm offended at the stupid premise that David Horsey suggests Trump wouldn't choose her and that using David Horsey's imagined telepathic abilities he knows Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for press secretary while, in fact and contrary to David Horsey's suggestions of what Trump would do, Trump did make her his press secretary.

It turns out the for some people they are so convinced they know someone else's inner mind and what a bastard they are and they won't let reality intrude on that fantasy. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Word of the Day : Wiener

In German, the Austrian city of Vienna in called Wien.

So demonym of the Viennese should be Wieners. For example, when Adolf Hitler lived in Vienna trying to be an artist he didn't make a big name for himself, in fact, he was a little, unimportant, failed Wiener.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How Orwellian : Africa's Great Civilizations on art and civilization

mask of the Ooni note the holes around the mouth and hairline to attach a beard and wig. Also note the odd crease lines on the neck.

PBS's Africa's Great Civilizations clip from episode 3 (about minute 43) :

Henry Louis Gates (host) : This astonishing sculpture is the mask of the Ooni. Obalufon the Second, monarch of one of the most important kingdoms in all of west Africa in the middle ages, the Kingdom of Ife. This is one of 40 or so brass copper sculptures executed with dazzling naturalism under the king's patronage. 
woman : They are technically among the most truly remarkable works of art created anyplace in the world. These are striking heads that are quite naturalistic but they're also this idealized naturalism so that none of the warts and wrinkles of the face is shown. If you look at them there is almost this serenity and calmness in them and give a sense of timelessness which are really, really beautiful.

Henry Louis Gates (host) : While European artists were still grappling with perspective and often struggling with the human form these African artists were making magnificent lifelike sculptures. It's not just the technical achievement of the sculptures its also their sheer artistry...

What he says in bold, taken separately, are true. But when put together he is drawing a comparison between the two and making an equivocation of 2 different things. Drawing and sculpture are 2 distinct mediums.  Being in the round, an object in 3d can be measured from any direction and compared to the model. They can even be put side by side and compare the profiles. Or a pantograph could be used. Or molds taken.

In contrast with drawing a slight shift in position changes the perspective. Even with a camera obscura or a grid window while they could help even a small change in the position of the artist would distort the image.  Even with photography it can take some skill to copy an image well and make an image that doesn't look copied from a photograph.

Let us compare a sculpture from a European artist of the same time period and see how it compares to the Ife artist:
Head of an Angel circa 1250, Paris, France

The sculpture above was carved from a piece of limestone.  I wouldn't call this "struggling with the human form" (assuming the nose was broken off and not forgotten by the sculptor). It is remarkably lifelike and quite subtle. I'm not going to try to puff this up by disparaging the African artist because I think the Ife head is well done.

St Donatus, Meissen Cathedral south wall of choir, Meissen, Saxony, Germany circa 1255-1260
Above is another example, this time a full figure, that I don't think is struggling with the human form (this one has a nose).

Would he have described African drawing as "grappling with perspective and often struggling with the human form while these European artists were making magnificent lifelike sculptures"? The series had several cringeworthy moments where the host takes on the role of cheerleader.


The Great Zimbabwe, mortarless stone walls as high as 36 feet (11m), seen from above

PBS's Africa's Great Civilizations clip from episode 4 (about minute 25) :

Associate ProfessorEdmund Akaba, University of Miami : It tells us that Africans were building cities in the 13th century and 14th century and 15th century contrary to this notion that Africa is, to some people, it's a place where there are animals and you have a couple of villages. But it shows that there was substantial technological and architectural development and that all these exploits were the work of Africans. 
Matenga : There is the debate about what is a civilization. Civilization has been rather sort of wrongly defined as the ability to write, leave text. I believe, in its own way, this place is a text.
Henry Louis Gates (host) : It is a text. (his voice rising)
Matenga : It is a text because a text is about communicating messages.
Henry Louis Gates (host) : mm-hmm
Matenga : So, this is a medium through which you can communicate messages.
Henry Louis Gates (host) : This is a sublime manifestation of the human spirit.
Matenga : Absolutely.

I agree that defining civilization as the ability to write is a wrong definition. Although I am unclear as to why he calls it a wrong definition and then wants to use that definition.

I always thought Civilization is the ability to build a city - to be able to sustain a place with a general civilness beyond kith & kin and beyond a population size where people can all know each other.

Congratulations! Africans built cities. He mentions other African cities and one had 15,000 people and another 20,000. For some reason, unlike the comparison with European artists above, he didn't draw a comparison to the progress of other places at the same time : Paris, France had a population of over 200,000 in 1300. Venice over 100,000, Beijing, China 400,000

"I believe, in its own way, this place is a text."

WTF. and then the host responds "It is a text." WTF.  Just WTF.  So a dog peeing on a tree is sending a message. In it's own way, urine is a text. I look forward to his next documentary series : "Great Civilizations of Dogs"

Writing is about knowledge. Being able to pass on the knowledge of thousands and thousands of people over thousands of years helps to build and keep a civilization.  A written language is not a prerequisite to civilization but I would suggest it is close. I would even suggest that it probably is a prerequisite for a modern civilization. Did a lack of written language prevent societies from expanding and sustaining? I suspect so.

movie notes : Queen Margot (1994)

Queen Margot American movie poster
I don't think a scene of these two wrapped in a red blanket was actually in the theatrical release of the movie

Queen Margot (1994) is a French historical movie and I highly recommend it.

It is a 1994 movie based on the 1845 Alexander Dumas novel which in turn is based on French history from 1572. I don't particularly trust anything that is "based on a true story" so I'm a little uneasy about the historical veracity of a movie based on the novelization of history written 273 years after the events took place and the movie is close to half a millennium (422 years) away from the actual events

For much of the movie I had no idea what was going on in context of French history. Fortunately, it's characters follow human impulses and it wasn't hard to understand what was going on. I'm pretty sure the movie covered all 7 deadly sins (gluttony, lust, greed, hubris, despair, wrath, vainglory, and sloth).

La Reine Margot - Queen Margot french movie poster
the French movie poster

Isabelle Adjani is a fragile beauty but none the less a beauty and I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. In contrast, Henry III of Navarre is played by Daniel Auteuil an ugly frenchman (not to be cruel but he doesn't have conventional movie star good looks. He did a good job though). In the poster at the top of the post, they focus on Adjani and her other costar Vincent Perez.  Adjani is full of emotion but unlike her contemporary Juliette Binoche doesn't spend all her time crying (Binoche seemed to have a talent for beautifully weeping).

Margot and Catherine de Medici (Adjani and Virna Lisi who at times is a little scary looking and seems to age 20 years in the movie) 
The costumes and sets are wonderful. The violence in the movie starts slow but builds and then peaks with the St Barthelomew's Day Massacre. It is often a beautiful movie. At times this movie is like a French painting of Gericault or Delacroix come to life.

I didn't keep a death count during the movie because I usually only do that with action movies but I should have. It was a lot.

I actually sat in the theater during the entire end credits listening to the music. In particular, I found one song compelling; what I assumed at the time was a late medieval French folk song isn't. Obviously I don't speak French, the song "Elo Hi" is in Hebrew.

Elo Hi by Ofra Haza

La reine Margot – Soundtrack is an album by Goran Bregović, with the music that he composed for the 1994 film La Reine Margot, by Patrice Chéreau. Like most of Bregović's work, the melodies in this soundtrack are heavily influenced by Balkanfolk music tradition, but he also refurbished and recycled some of his previous work while he was the frontman of Bijelo dugme, one of the most influential Yugoslav rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s
An unexpected source of music for a French film.

Friday, October 27, 2017

movie notes : Breaking the Waves (1996)

Cinéma vérité : in this case, pointlessly lingering shots to pad the running time and flaunt self-indulgent pretentiousness.

I saw Breaking the Waves (1996) in the theater. It is about a simple minded woman who might be crazy and thinks she talks to god. She marries an oil rig worker (I can't recall if there was a connection between the 2 or if it was just physical or if it was just convenient to the plot). She misses him while he is gone and prays for him to come back to her and then he is permanently paralyzed in an accident (a well done scene as I recall). Hopeless, he tells her to move on. Trying to convince her to move on he tells her to sleep with other men then he'll get better.

Between the trite plot, an ending that I predicted halfway through (but I thought it was too lame and hackneyed to make it into a movie), the so-called characters and the feeling that its 4 and a half hour running time could have been edited down to 30 minutes I felt absolute rage at this movie, for while having potential, turning out to be a waste of time. If I hadn't been the only person in the theater I would have tried to start a riot to tear down the screen and hang the director (Lars von Trier) in effigy.

I've never walked out of a movie but this is one that I wish I had.

People would explain to me that it is an artistic triumph, that it is well respected, that it is the darling of critics all over the world, that it is important and that it is an award winning movie but absolutely none of them had seen the movie.

I thought about rewatching it before writing this review but the intensity of my dislike for it remains. (I should also note that while I wrote above that it had a 4 and a half hour running time according to its running time was only 2hrs 39min – it only felt twice as long.)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Painting in a Painting : John Singer Sargent

Claude Monet, Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885 by John Singer Sargent 

detail :
Monet's unfinished canvas in the Sargent painting cropped and distorted into a rectangle. (note the inclusion at the bottom right of Monet's hand, blue shirt and pallette)

Below, to contrast is Monet's finished painting

Meadow with Haystacks near as Près à Giberny, 1885 by Claude Monet

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War #2 : Franco

(this is the second installment; the first group of propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War is here)

Franco found here 
by J. Davó (signed at lower left) and printed by the Romero Lithograph (Tenerife, Canary Islands). Excellent use of a limited number of colors.

A smiling Franco, atop a white horse leads 2 columns of supporters. Those on the left carry the red and yellow pre-republic, red and yellow civil ensign Spanish flag (or the royalist flag if a crest is hidden in the fold). The column on the right carries the red and black flag of the Falange. Franco and his horse complete the cross.  "Julio 18, 1936" refers to the date of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The rays behind the cross evoke a dawn.

Franco's horse steps on a red snake, a traditional symbol of evil, holding a hammer and sickle in its mouth. The symbols of the hammer and sickle were used by some political parties of the Republican Left.

Not to be cruel, but Franco was not a particularly handsome man and yet here he is drawn in a remarkably flattering way while retaining his likeness. Contrast it to the painting below by Paco Ibera. Franco is as reality would have him : balding, bags under his eyes and a rounded chin (disguising a double chin that can be seen in the photo of Franco later in the page.

Dictator in Furs by Paco Ibera
This was previously mentioned here. Go to that link for more commentary on this.


"Franco cut off at the knees" may not have been the creator's intent

Una Patria! Un Estado! Un Caudillo! (One fatherland! One state! One strongman!)

I suspect this is not from the Spanish Civil War but afterwards.  Cropping Franco off at the knees making him look like Dorf the Dictator. I find it interesting that while there is a relatively bright contrast between the Spanish-French border there is less contrast between the Portugese-Spanish border – it is only slightly more pronounced than the internal borders. Franco presents him self simply : a lack of epaulets or furs or rows of medals.

The font seems very 1930s.


The next portray Franco is a less flattering way.

 Izquierda Republicana En Vanguardia Contra El Fascismo Internacional (Left Republican in vanguard against international fascism) by Petit Guillén Carteles  de la Republica y de la Guerra Civil #180
Left Republican in vanguard against international fascism! (Seriously, you would think they would have included an exclamation point or 2)

Izquierda Republicana En Vanguardia Contra El Fascismo Internacional (Left Republican in vanguard against international fascism) by Petit Guillén (signed at lower left)

from the upper left is Jose Maria Gil Robles (with a pear for a head and bald except for a stem on top) he wears a Sacred Heart necklace to note his Catholicism. Next to him is Benito Mussolini wearing a tiny hat. Below Gil Robles is Adolph Hitler looking sad with his head cocked horizontal.
from left to right : Gil Robles (no stem on top), Francisco Franco and unknown.

Below Hitler is a short, cartoony, Chaplinesque Francisco Franco with a swastika and a death's head on his hat and a sword in his raised hand.

They are all wrapped in the Spanish Republican flag (red, yellow and purple) being pulled by a Republican soldier. While Mussolini, Hitler and Gil Robles are bound together, Franco only has the flag wrapped on one side and he holds a sword that can probably cut fabric.

To the right, behind the soldier, and at the far right is Manual Azaña and his awkward, wrongly drawn hand and pointy finger gesturing upwards. Unlike Franco in the first image, I think here Azana looks little better than reality.

photograph of Manual Azaña (note that the artist wasn't exceptionally unflattering it is just that Manual Azaña looked like a muppet in real life.)

Surrounding Azaña is a crosshatch of white.  Part of the problem likely being those on the left (of the poster) were drawn by a skillful cartoonist while Azaña was likely drawn by the cartoonist copying a photograph and trying to draw realistically while his real talents line in his skill as a cartoonist.

At lower right is a logo "Junta Municipal Delegation de Propaganda Valencia" (Municipal Board Delegation of Propaganda Valencia) (as an aside it is a nice font)

A striking contrast in styles; cartoony for the villains and realistic for the politician and idealized for the Republican soldier.


el generalisimo by Pedero Carteles de la Republica y la Guerra Civil #551
el generalisimo by Pedrero (signed at lower left)

#551 in Carteles de la Republica Y la Guerra Civil
Junta Delegada de Defensa de Madrid

I imagine that  the title "el generalisimo" in all lower case was intended to be diminishing towards someone grandiose enough to call himself "el generalisimo."

Francisco Franco as death himself dressed in a long grey coat, a black and red cape, white gloves, and spurs. His hand on his sword and his cape carried by an obese army general, an obese capitalist and an obese friar toting a rifle. Again, Franco is shown wearing a swastika.

The helmet is more like a Prussian/German pickelhaube than a contemporary Spanish army helmet (at least as far as i've seen. In fact, while I've browsed through many photos from the Spanish Civil War the only helmets I've seen are on the Republican side. The overseas cap seems to have been worn on the Nationalist side.) Franco's white gloves remind me of the white gloves a plethora of animated cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse wear.


el generalisimo by Antonio Cañavate Carteles de la Republica Y la Guerra Civil #552
el generalisimo by Antonio Cañavate (signed)
I.E. el generalisimo
Junta Delegada de defensa de Madrid
Rivadeneyra, UGT  Madrid

I think this is the most effective. It is fun, interesting and harshly mocking. Francisco Franco on his My Little Pony (with a swastika brand). The chubby horse smiles at a butterfly as it rears up while striking a coy David-esque pose.
Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques Louis David, 1801

Franco's chest is puffed out and he holds a wooden club (one of the knots is heart shaped). He wears an extravagant uniform complete with epaulets, a sash, side stripe pants, a hat with different colored feathers,He has a colorful horse blanket and a blunderbuss (outdated for a 100 years). I'm not sure why his skin is orange, perhaps to comment on his tan from his years in Morocco and the Canaries.

From the swirling clouds drop 2 bombs. The cactus in the background is made up of faces.

It is interesting that the swastika is attached to Franco by his opponents but Franco did not use it as a symbol used to represent the Nationalists. The symbol used by Franco is the old national flag - horizontal red, yellow, red stripes or the red and black Falange symbol and, of course, he used himself as a symbol.

In contrast, elements of the Spanish left also freely adopted the hammer & sickle for themselves (in particular : the PCE, Partido Comunista de Espana aka the Spanish Communist Party and PSU the Partido Socialista Unificado aka Unified Socialst Party and POUM Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista aka the Worker's Party of Unified Marxists).

Keep in mind that at the time of the Spanish Civil War the Nazis were thugs and totalitarians but not yet genocidal mass murderers while the Soviet Union were also totalitarians and thugs but had also been responsible for the death of thousands of forced laborers constructing the White Sea Canal,  the Holodomor, a man-made famine killed millions, and Stalin's Great Purge had started. Different standards for different totalitarians I suppose.

Note the stark contrast in the message being sent : This poster and the "Izquerida Republicana" present Franco as a joke. A puffed up cartoon dandy. But the one between them shows Franco as a gigantic walking death.

Monday, September 4, 2017

movie notes : Valdemar Legacy (2010)

The Valdemar Legacy (2010) is Lovecraftian horror movie. It was pretty good. It had some tension and it maintained my interest.

The main problem with the movie is the structure. It begins with one set of characters but then has a long flashback with a different set of characters and ends with the first set of characters ready for Valdemar Legacy II. Now, if I had part II queued up after finishing part I then that might be ok; but I didn't.

Spanish language with subtitles and if you watch it with the Amazon Video subtitles turned on then it provides subtitles for the sound effects.

The character Jervás was played by Paul Naschy who I would swear I've seen in more than one movie but I can't figure out which.


from imdb's trivia section :
The first movie in all Spanish's cinema history made without Spanish government subsidies.

That seems both impossible and yet somehow plausible.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pickelhaube and other headgear

pickelhaube helmet

The spiked german helmet is called a Pickelhaube and upon learning that as a kid I couldn't decide if the name was awesome or hilarious – I later learned it basically translates to "pointy hat" and not "pickle holder" as I had assumed.  This isn't to suggest that you couldn't stick a pickle on to the spike to save it for later. 

Otto Von Bismark in pickelhaube 

Russian Cavalry

An imperial double headed eagle as tall as the rest of the helmet is pretty magnificent. I suppose the spectacular hat is to make up for the fact that he is the cavalry drummer and in about a decade the Russian army would face a Japanese army armed with machine guns.

Russian Army (from here)

While the practicality of a giant feathered plume on your hat might be questioned by some. I wonder if its use waned because it would go embarrassingly flaccid in the rain? 

French army helmet circa World War 1

The French WW1 helmet above has a decorative hump attached, although it was much less extravagant than the golden age. As the steel protective helmet took off the decorative features become less common.

Russian Lancer

The age of fantastic hats was also an age of proud facial hair. Although the fellow above may be making a statement with his lack symmetry.

German Lancer 1914
Note his great squared and flat topped lancer helmet. Just imagine all things he could have balanced up there. People may not be surprised at a head on a pedestal but what about a pedestal on top a head? That's a man with a dangerous outlook on the world.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Ancient Sumerian

Never let it be said that this isn't a classy, high brow establishment interested in other cultures and languages.

The ancient Sumerian symbol for woman :

Sumerian pictogram for woman

Below is the Ancient Sumerian symbol for man. It seems more ambiguous. It could be a fist and forearm or a cartoon man standing in a helmet or a tailless seahorse.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Genius of the Modern World s1e1 Marx

Genius of the Modern World, season 1, episode 1, titled "Marx" clip from about the 41 minute mark.

Bettany Hughes : And then we're told Marx made things worse. Living with the family was a feisty woman called Helene. She helped around the house, she was a fellow radical and friend but, Marx slept with her and fathered an illegitimate son at the same time that Jenny was pregnant again. This was not Marx's finest hour.

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Jenny was furious. They'd all known each other for a long time. So, clearly, there is some drama and upset that goes on. and it is really heavy going. Marx is sending notes to Engels saying I can't go home because it's an absolute storm and everyone is really upset and Jenny was furious please come have a drink with me at the pub at Russell street.

Bettany Hughes  : You know he has slept with somebody who's not his wife; she's pregnant. This is a terrible stigma at the time. It's tough now it was really really tough in the nineteenth century.

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Hmmmm...Well, is it? Because they are quite conventionally unconventional. And at that time, illegitimacy, particularly in the circles that they were moving in, politically and socially, isn't such a stigma. But at the same time quite a lot of the evidence points towards the fact that Jenny wanted it covered up.

Bettany Hughes  : so who takes responsibility for all this?

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Who makes it ok is Engels. He makes it understood that he is the father. And Engels, he takes the rap for his best friend.

Bettany Hughes  : Wow. What do you think this incident tells us about Marx?

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Marx is a man! And ultimately, also a Victorian Patriarch. A man like any other that needs to be understood in context and all heroes have their flaws.

The interview with Rachel Holmes ends on that note.

Ah, the familiar Marxist argumentation style of tossing up a variety of arguments up to see what sticks (I call it the Socialist Harangue) :
Oh, poor Marx! He was a victim in this and people were mad at him; he was suffering! Didn't fall for that? OK, then ...An illegitimate kid is no big deal! It was accepted in their social circle. Was his wife part of his social circle? OK, then ... in that case it's no big deal because Engels makes it understood that he is the father. He takes the rap and by rap I mean the thing I just claimed wasn't a big deal a moment ago. Oh, you still think it reflects poorly on Marx? OK, then ... it's because he's just a man! All men have illegitimate kids! We should really blame the Victorians as they controlled the penis of all German emigres! Blame the Patriarchy! It was taken out of context! Don't forget he's a hero! C'mon! You're holding him to too high of a standard! Other than that he's a hero! Nobody's perfect!

I'll note that the subjects of the series "Genius of the Modern World" are Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud.

from episode 2 of the series on Nietzsche :

The host, Bettany Hughes, declares that :
"The Nietzsche of the Nazis was a hideous parody... And yet perhaps the blame for his misuse is not entirely Elizabeth's. Nietzsche would never have advocated Hitler's final solution but, he was naive if he thought his work would not be misunderstood. Evil loves nothing better than a void, and the philosopher's clever, ambiguous aphorisms could easily be put to the service of evil. Even when he was entirely sane, Nietzsche  said that bad would be done in his name. The sister and the brother must share responsibility for the life that his work took on after his death."

It is worth noting that Nietzsche died in 1900 when Hitler was 11 years old and Nietzsche's Will to Power was published posthumously in 1911. Both Marx and Nietzsche wrote about the restructuring of morality and society. Despite Marx's positive view of revolutionary terror (which I don't recall the episode mentioning) there wasn't a comparable measuring of responsibility in the Marx episode.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Erasing the Past : Lynch schools

On Wednesday, the Centennial School Board in Oregon voted to remove 'Lynch' from the names of three elementary schools
Lynch Meadows and Lynch Wood Elementary schools will now become Meadows and Wood Elementary schools
Lynch View Elementary will be changed to Patrick Lynch Elementary, after the man who donated the land to the district in the late 1800s
School officials say they have been getting complaints about the names in recent years over the connotation with lynching
While the Lynch family had no ties to the racist mobs, they decided to change the name so as not to offend any students

In recent years, school officials say they have received complaints from people who are concerned about the name's connotation with lynching.'There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name,' Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Coakley, who is black, told the Oregonian.  'Our diversity is increasing every year, with families coming in from Northeast Portland and out of state, so [the names] needed to be looked at,' he added. 

'I don't think any of you have ever seen a picture where one of your decedents was hanging from a tree,' one black man said to the board. 

He probably hasn't either - at least I certainly hope not. Of course, being written by the semi-literates at Daily Mail I felt I had to check the other links to see if actually said either "decedents" or "descendants" or if he didn't misspeak and actually said "ancestors." He quite clearly says "descendants." What a travesty that no one recognized the mistake.

I do wonder if it a bit of rhetoric or if he actually has an ancestor who had been lynched. Of course, white people were lynched too.

A young student added: 'I know the majority of you guys are white and it's hard to know how that word could have an effect but it does. If a simple name change could make students feel safe, then why are we holding back?'
Remember, you have to be sensitive towards people. Unless they were born with the name "Lynch" in their family history in which case you can go ahead and smear them and their name with a brutal crime they had nothing to do with. 

movie notes : Atomic Blonde (2017)

This gets the "She's a Ninja!" tag.  Mostly it was plausible but there were 2 occasions where she grabbed a fully grown professional spy goon and she flipped him aside like he didn't weigh twice as much as her. There were also the occasional choreographed fight scene when she fights multiple opponents where it seemed like everyone paused while she hits the first guy and then the first guy pauses while she hits the second guy etc... But that seems to be in most action movies these days.

It stars an aging Charlize Theron whose British accent didn't seem quite right. But my critical response to her performance could be due to her anti-charisma.  Her power of anti-charisma is probably equal to Matt Damon. Just like Matt Damon in the movie The Martian during the movie I hoped that Charlize Theron's character would get transported to another planet and run out of air. With both I am find myself distracted during their movies with the hope that their characters will die. It is potent anti-charisma indeed when I find myself hoping against hope that an East German Stasi goon will win the fight.

Unlike Matt Damon, I wonder if she is actually a robot. There was a moment, that due to the lighting, her pupil appeared to be square and my first thought was "I knew it she's an android!" (I thought for sure her character was an android in Prometheus). She isn't an unattractive woman but besides her appearance she generally seems like a complete bore and unconvincing.

At one point she takes a bath in a tub full of ice and then gets out, drops a couple ice cubes into a glass and pours herself a vodka. The ice cubes obviously came from the disgusting bath water.

Monday, August 14, 2017

taxpayer subsidies for millionaires

Robert De Niro mugging for the camera in his American Express TV commercial

Robert De Niro on suggested cuts to the NEA :

Robert De Niro ripped into the Trump administration’s plans to chop funding to the arts tonight at a gala benefit in his honor at Lincoln Center on Monday night. In his acceptance speech, De Niro called for health care and referenced Donald Trump’s comments about Meryl Streep following her own honor at the Golden Globes earlier this year, but he reserved the bulk of his ire for lamenting to strip funding to government support to agencies supporting the arts.

“We make movies to entertain audiences. Audiences vote by seeing them; critics vote by writing about them; and then posterity takes its time to decide if they’re art — or not,” De Niro said while accepting the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 44th annual Chaplin Award. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of our government’s hostility towards art. The budget proposal, among its other draconian cuts to life-saving and life-enhancing programs, eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For their own divisive political purposes, the administration suggests that the money for these all-inclusive programs goes to rich liberal elites. This is what they now call an ‘alternative fact,’ but I call it bullshit.

Who could imagine rich liberal elites wanting subsidies for rich liberal elite multimillionaires?

Robert DeNiro (net worth $200,000,000) is a founder of the Tribeca Film Institute and a member of it's board of directors. According to the NEA grant search for "Tribeca Film Institute" :

In 2017 they received 3 grants totaling $50,000.
In 2016 they received a single $50,000 grant.
In 2015 they received a single $15,000 grant.
In 2014 they received a single $40,000 grant.
In 2013 they received a single $50,000 grant.
In 2012 they received two grants totaling $95,000 grant.
In 2011 they received two grants totaling $90,000 grant.
no grants in 2010 and 2009
In 2008 they received a single $40,000 grant.
no grants from its founding in 2002 to 2007
In total that is $430,000. That is an average of $43,000 per year from it's first grant to 2017.

According to the NEH grant search for "Tribeca Film Institute" :
2010 the received $65,000
2011 they received $350,000
2013 they received a supplement grant of $75,000
2014 they received $20,000 ($40,000 approved but only $230,000 awarded)
In total that is $510,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Together from the NEA & NEH it comes to $940,000 over 10 years or an average of $94,000 per year. I wonder if he mentioned in his speech that he is complaining that his pet project would lose out on getting government money?

Here is Robert De Niro in a Subaru car TV commercial

Here is Robert de Niro in a Docomo dVideo Japanese TV commercial

Here is Robert De Niro in an American Express commercial

Here is Robert De Niro in a Santander Bank TV commercial

Clearly, he is willing to show up in exchange for money as the above ads show as does his work in the movies Dirty Grandpa (2016) and Joy(2015).

I know what you're thinking, without grants from taxpayers whose net worth and yearly income is far, far less than his; will his children go hungry? Good news! Robert De Niro owns 2 or possibly 3 restaurants : NobuTribeca Grill , and the Greenwich Hotel which houses a restaurant. His kids can bus tables and eat other people's leftovers.


Let's look at another liberal elite multimillionaire : Robert Redford net worth $170,000,000

According to the NEA grant search for his "Sundance Institute"
2017  3 grants worth $270,000
2016  3 grants worth $270,000
2015  3 grants worth $280,000
2014  3 grants worth $225,000
2013  2 grants worth $95,000
2012  2 grants worth $180,000
2011  2 grants worth $180,000
2010  2 grants worth $225,000
2009  2 grants worth $180,000
2008  2 grants worth $175,000
2007  2 grants worth $155,000
2006  2 grants worth $150,000
2005  2 grants worth $150,000
2004  2 grants worth $150,000
2003  2 grants worth $133,000
2002  2 grants worth $127,000
2001  2 grants worth $125,000
2000  3 grants worth $132,000
1999  1 grant worth $100,000
1998  2 grants worth $161,750

Robert Redford has said that the founding of Sundance was helped by NEA grants. They have received NEA grants every year since 1981 but unfortunately anything before 1998 isn't included in the NEA grant search. A search of the NEH grant database returned nothing. Between 1998 and 2017 the Sundance Institute has received $3,463,750 or an average of $173,187 per year.

here is Robert Redford's image and his voiceover in a Honda ad

here is a Robert Redford voiceover for a United Airline TV ad

Like Robert De Niro, Robert Redford is capable of making money selling his talents,

Robert Redford's reaction to the prospect of NEA cuts :
In 1981, the National Endowment for the Arts played a fundamental role in helping me create Sundance Institute. The NEA generously contributed a $25,000 grant to assist us in launching the very first labs for independent filmmakers to develop new work (programs that continue to this day).

That first promising investment from the NEA, and their belief in my project was vital to launching programs that now support tens of thousands of American artists working in film and theater and new media....
...[cuts to the NEA] would deprive all our citizens of the culture and diversity the humanities brings to our country

He describes the NEA's investment as "vital" to his pet project. Does anyone believe that if the government hadn't thrown in some cash then the famous millionaire would have said "well, I could hit up Paul Newman for that $25,000. Or I could beg for money from business associates and coworkers. Or just work more. But no matter how much I think the Sundance Institute is a good idea; getting cash from taxpayers is indispensable! If I don't get at least $8.50 from the government then screw you clowns, I'll just scrap the whole thing!"

In 2015 they received $280,000 from the NEA. In context, this is a small amount to the Sundance Institute as their revenue from all sources was $45,661,608.  That means in 2015 less than one percent, a mere 0.61%, of the Sundance Institute's budget was from NEA grants but apparently that is enough to "deprive all our citizens of the culture and diversity the humanities brings to our country." Not giving a famous millionaire actor money deprives all our citizens of diversity?

One last thing, according to the filings posted by the Sundance Institute received $2,306,564 in 2015 from government grants (7.6%). That leaves $2,026,564 in taxpayer money that they received but with a government so large and opaque I don't know how or why or where they received it from.


In contrast, this 2012 article on celebrity donations mentions Alec Baldwin giving over a million dollars to the cleverly named Alec Baldwin Foundation. The foundation then issued grants  of $50,000 to the NY Philharmonic, $42,500 to Waterkeeper Alliance, and $250,000 to the Carol M Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The NEA grant search returns zero results for "Alec Baldwin." He's putting his money towards his personal interests without demanding uninterested taxpayers also give money according to his whim. Good for him.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Possibly the best mechanical pencil ever : Pentel Technic-X

the Pentel PW45 Technic-X in 4 colors

Possibly the best mechanical pencil ever (with some qualifications) : Pentel Technic-X (pw45)

The pencil is wider in diameter than your average mechanical pencil with a taper towards the center and it is quite comfortable. Near the metal tip is a rubbery grip.

The barrel is plastic and after years of use I have had a couple break in half.

The silver cap comes off the top to reveal a tiny, less than useful eraser in a metal sleeve. The eraser isn't fixed at the end of the pencil but rests in the lead reservoir inside the pencil barrel. This means it wobbles when you erase. Worse is that the eraser is just over 1/8" in diameter and 1/2" long while the metal sleeve to keep it from getting pushed into the barrel is 3/8" long. The eraser sits about 1/8" below the barrel so the practical usable part of the eraser is maybe 1/4".

The other criticism of the pencil is the barcode sticker on the barrel doesn't come off easily. It would look better without it. C'est la vie. They wear off eventually. In contrast, the metal pocket clip will come off and once off there is nothing to stop the pencil from rolling away.

Retracting nib!

I found this pencil by accident in, I think, around 2005. I was in a small local office supply store waiting to drop off a package and I happened to pick up one of these. Since I draw I often carry a pencil in my pocket and the retractable tip of the PW45 is great for not getting stabbed by a pencil nib. I bought one and I loved it. The more I used it the more I loved it.  A few weeks later, I realized I needed a backup in case it became lost or broken. I searched the store but couldn't find any. I asked about them and they checked a catalog and they said they couldn't get anymore. I checked other office supply stores. I tried other pencils with retractable tips but they were teases. They didn't work like the pw45.  I found one that had a retractable nib that extended with a push of the button but then I discovered that to retract it you had to push the button and push the tip in. The pw45 uses a full click of the button to extend/retract the nib and a soft click to advance the lead. Having to manually push the nib back in is barbaric. One required a twist of the barrel to extend/retract. Two handed operation is completely unacceptable. Others were flimsy or had a looseness of the nib. They were pale imitations. I looked online and at the Pentel website I discovered they were discontinued. Site after site were sold out. I felt a pit in my stomach like watching a woman you love walk away knowing you'll never see her again.

But I found a site that had some and I ordered a couple dozen.  I've praised the pencil to dozens of people and I've even given a couple away. I've lost a few. I've broken a few and I've left one in a hot car where the rubber grip became permanently sticky leading me to cut it off. I've had people I've given one to ask me for another but now I worry that I don't have a lifetime supply so I demure. (I used to brag about my hoard of spares but I've learned that maybe I shouldn't)

Every so often I check the Pentel site to see if they've come to their senses and started making them again but no such luck. There is the GraphGear 1000 for $22.49. -choke-  I've tried it and it isn't bad. The GraphGear has a metal body and the retraction mechanism is activated by the clip with a loud click.

The price of about $2.50 is one of the PW45's best features. I've seen some retractable pencils like the Rotring 800 or the TWSBI Precision but I'm not willing to spend $20-35 blindly on a pencil I've never used. Neither can I imagine losing a $35 pencil or accidentally putting a $35 pencil through the wash. The PW45 isn't perfect but at $2.50 it was losable and even abusable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Erasing the Past : Yale sculpture

Via the Yale Alumni Magazine :
If you were especially observant during your years on campus, you may have noticed a stone carving by the York Street entrance to Sterling Memorial Library that depict a hostile encounter: a Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American (top). When the library decided to reopen the long-disused entrance as the front door of the new Center for Teaching and Learning, says head librarian Susan Gibbons, she and the university’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces decided the carving’s “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” The Puritan’s musket was covered over with a layer of stone (bottom) that Gibbons says can be removed in the future without damaging the original carving. 

 The obvious point seems to be that "Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American" seems inaccurate. They are both looking in the same direction and one would expect the puritan to be looking towards the indian if the intent was to aim at the indian.

They do get one point of credit for making the censorship of the past both largely unobtrusive and reversible.

The only quote of the head librarian Susan Gibbons is "presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate" Unfortunately there isn't any explanation of why it is inappropriate although one might assume that the "Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American" canard might be why.

I'll note that the Committee on Art in Public Spaces self description is "The committee will hear from members of the community about art and other symbolic representations related to diversity and consider ways Yale might better reflect our campus and our history."

movie notes : Crumb (1994)

from the commentary track of the documentary movie Crumb (1994) (around the 24 minute mark)

Terry Zwigoff, director :  This guy Skutch he's talking about [a high school bully from the Crumb childhood] is another guy I tried to track down and interview in the film and I actually found him. He was living outside Milford, Delaware; close to where he'd gone to high school. I got him on the phone and I said to him I'd doing a documentary about this guy Robert Crumb and his brother Charles and Max and do you remember him from high school. He said "yeah vaguely" I said what do you do for a living? I may come out there and interview you if; we're trying to raise more money at the time... He said he ran some sort of salvage operation; I couldn't tell from that whether it was some sort of like a  progressive recycling situation or just a city dump. I couldn't tell. We were so short on money I just sort of let that go. It could have been good, I don't know.

it is an interesting distinction to draw into importance. Now, I may be being uncharitable but it seems like he sees a "progressive recycling situation" as something wonderful while a city dump/scrap yard/salvage operation is simply and distinctly déclassé. But is there a difference?

There is to some. Not a practical difference; both are recycling. Both are about reuse. Both are about not being wasteful. The difference is an arbitrary one of social standing.

This is much like those who are fascinated by "tiny houses," even those with wheels so they are mobile but somehow the phrases "mobile home" or "trailer home" are studiously omitted.  The difference between a tiny house and a mobile home is often defined as being able to afford minimalism vs not being able to afford something other than a mobile home.

Again,  I may be being uncharitable (and a little unfair as I am not a mind reader) but he did feel it necessary to interrupt his fellow commentarian to put this little bit of information out there (and the above transcript is the full statement he made about the man).  I sense he was thinking of the meme of the bully in high school who peaks in those years and then declines into obscurity while the victims of the bully have a documentary film made about them.

Friday, June 9, 2017

a regulation beclowning

At one David Lumb beclowns :
In March, the FAA noted that over 100,000 hobby drone owners had registered their machines since the year began, bringing the total in the US over 770,000. Owners have filed their non-commercial UAVs with the agency ever since the DoT passed a law in December 2015 that made registration mandatory. But a Washington, D.C. court has struck down that legislation, freeing just-for-fun drone owners from notifying the government of their purchases -- for good and ill.

The Department of Transportation passes laws! One can argue that a regulation can have the force of law but the difference between the two is significant and important.  Unelected bureaucrats "passing laws" maybe somewhat accurate but that isn't how the system is supposed to be.

Imagine a cop directing traffic. He holds out his hand to signal the traffic from the side street to stop and waves in the other direction for traffic to start. Imaginary David Lumb, on the sidewalk, then announces that "the cop has passed a law mandating the flow of traffic! Who knows what other vast power over mere men that cop has."

The FCC is a fine example of unelected bureaucrats transforming an arm of the government into something beyond it's purview. Previous to FDR, the FCC (and its predecessor the FRC) was mostly about the technical aspects of radio : are the licensee staying in their frequency? what is their allowable broadcasting power? are the paying their license fee?  In the 1936 election over 90% of newspapers opposed FDR and in retaliation he propagated regulation to prevent newspapers from owning radio stations. The president made his priority clear with a single sentence memo sent to the FCC chairman : "Will you let me know when you propose to have a hearing on newspaper ownership of radio stations."

In addition, they introduced the fairness doctrine and its predecessor the Mayflower Doctrine.  In 1939 the FCC ruled against John Sheppard and the Yankee Network stating that "The licensee has assumed the obligation of presenting all sides of important public questions, fairly, objectively and without bias" (from the book American Broadcasting and the First Amendment by Lucas A. Powe, jr, 1987 p110)  The FCC took it upon itself to decide what is and is not a "important public question" and if it is presented fairly.  Sheppard kept his broadcasting license by promising to never editorialize.