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.