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The Republicans must be crazy.

The Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. They have now done so for exactly a year. They knew this day would come. And they could not prevent a shutdown?

And they actually blame the Democrats???

If the president had any kind of leadership skills, if he had engaged himself in the effort and lobbied in Congress and the Senate for votes, if he had put forth a plan and an agenda, this could have easily been done.

But the president is lazy and inept.

The Republicans must be crazy.

I am an artist, a painter, and you would think I’d have known more about the artist who created the two most famous paintings in history. Sadly, I knew pretty much only his name: Leonardo da Vinci.

The second most famous painting in history is The Last Supper. It is featured every year as the “grand finale” of the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters. And every year it is a new, powerful image.

Of course, the most famous painting in the world is the Mona Lisa. It is also the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, and the most parodied work of art in the world [Wikipedia]. It is also widely believed to be the most valuable painting in the world.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452. He was not just an artist, but an engineer, a scientist, an inventor, and a relentless researcher. He wrote thousands of pages of note books, filled with ideas, speculations, checklists, drawings, designs and drafts throughout his life. Through his writing, we know a lot about him, but on the other hand, a lot of mystery surrounds the man and his history.

Walter Isaacson, the author of the biographies of Steve Jobs and Einstein, guides us through the life of Leonardo da Vinci from birth to death. We see the artist grow from his humble beginnings as an illegitimate son of a Florence notary, to a true superstar of art who consorted with the most powerful people in the world at the beginning of the 16th century. Leonardo was at the peak of his game around the same time when Columbus first reached the New World. The world was very different then, and reading this biography, I learned a lot about the world in those years, and about the pursuit of art.

Now I feel like I know Leonardo da Vinci. I would like to visit him in his later years with a time machine and bring him back to my house. I’d have him ride in my Prius with some Mozart playing off my iPhone through the sound system. I’d show him how I could make a phone call from a moving car to the other side of the world. We’d go to the airport and I’d buy first class tickets to Washington, DC. I’d let him have the window seat and look out over the world from 36,000 feet. Once in DC, I’d take him to the National Gallery of Art and guide him to the Ginevra de’ Benci, the only original da Vinci located in the Americas and therefore the only da Vinci original I have ever seen with my own eyes. He would recognize his own greatness in the history of the western world.

And now I know I need to – as soon as I can manage it – go to the Louvre in Paris and see the Mona Lisa and all the other da Vinci originals there. I know there’ll be crowds of people. I know there’ll be lines. I know I won’t be able to get near the painting. But I know I’ll stand there and I’ll wonder who all has stood in front of that painting over the years, over the centuries and marveled about it. Did Vincent van Gogh ever go and see the Mona Lisa? Did Bob Dylan? Did Pablo Picasso? Did Frieda Kahlo? Did Henry Miller? Did Benjamin Franklin?

Maybe they all did, but someday not so far out, I will have gone – inspired by Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci.


The Inverse of a Concept Does Not a Concept Make

What would you do if you were confronted with this icon – without context:

If you are anything like me, you would be bewildered. I would have no idea what this icon is trying to tell me.

The problem is, it is the inverse of a concept, and unfortunately, the inverse of a concept is not a concept in itself.

Scroll down for the solution to this mystery

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Ah, one of the trash cans is a recycle bin, and the other one has the recycle indicator crossed out.

That one trashcan alone would not make any sense.

Today I traveled back from Columbus, Ohio to San Diego, California. In Columbus, the weather turned from rain to snow throughout the afternoon, and I was truly worried about making it out of there. My first leg was to Phoenix, Arizona, with 72 degree weather and clear skies. After wheels up in Columbus, I thought I’d be home safely. The connection flight from Phoenix to San Diego was where the problem kicked in. There was fog in San Diego, and first we started circling over the desert in a “holding pattern” as the pilot called it. Then we were diverted to Ontario, California. San Diego was hopelessly fogged in.

When we landed in Ontario just after 10:00pm, unfortunately, we were not the only plane. There were at least another five or six planes, all destined for San Diego, sitting on the tarmac in Ontario. The airport was already closed, and there was not enough staff there to guide all these planes into gates. There was no staff to operate the jet bridges. Since the terminal was closed, they had to call the police to open the doors. That took some time.

So, after landing, everyone got to sit on the planes for another half an hour. Of course, there was nobody to timely unload the luggage, and the poor airline agent couldn’t get any buses on short notice.

Imagine hundreds of people milling around the airport baggage claim area with no services and no place to go, and the hour was going on midnight.

Fortunately, I live “only” about 90 minutes from the Ontario airport. While I was still on the plane, to save time, I had called The Woman, who fortunately had just texted me that she missed me an hour before, to come and pick me up.

Oh, what a lucky man, I was!

 

 

Earth and Moon

Image Credit: NASA/OSIRIS-REx team and the University of Arizona – [click to enlarge]

We forget how empty space around us is. This picture taken from composites of the OSIRIS spacecraft shows how far the moon is away from the earth, and how little it is, yet, it is our nearest neighbor. There were nine manned missions that went to the moon in the history of humanity, of which six landed on the moon. The last such mission was in 1973, which is now 45 years ago! A number of the people involved in these missions are no longer alive now.

Humans haven’t left the little ball on the left since then, and missions to the space station, in comparison, are so close to earth that you could not even see them on this image.

Space is vast.

 

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) graduated from college in Boston and went on to have a successful and comfortable life in Sacramento, California. He has a beautiful and sweet wife who works for the government, and a son who is smart, laid back, and a musical prodigy. Brad, you would think, has it made.

When he accompanies his son Troy (Austin Abrams) to Boston to interview at Harvard, he goes through an existential crisis. He compares his life, which he considers boring and unsuccessful, with those of his college friends, a bestselling author, a Hollywood producer, a tech entrepreneur and a hedge fund creator. As he watches his son’s success, he doubts himself, and as he interacts with his friends he gradually finds out things are not exactly what they seem.

Just maybe he is successful after all?

Brad’s Status is a slow movie, mostly because there is very little action and a lot of narration. We are not watching what’s going on, we’re told about what’s going on, all through the movie. The characters, with the exception of Brad, are not very credible. We’re told that Troy is a gifted musician, yet we never even witness him playing a single key on the piano, his supposed instrument. Troy is a nice, laid-back kid, but he does not strike me as a prodigy and somebody with a mission. He ends up interviewing at Harvard somewhat by accident. Brad is boring, to watch, to be with, and to listen to.

After a very slow and somewhat boring start, the story picks up a bit of speed, and somehow, at the end, when the credits rolled, I was actually satisfied. The best thing about this entire movie is the second it ends.

You’ll just have to watch it and see for yourself.


 

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a lonely spinster, a mute, who works as a janitor at a “black” government installation in the Cold War era circa 1962.

She discovers a “fishman” creature in a secret laboratory that is being abused by its keepers, headed by a sadistic government agent. She falls in love with the creature. When she finds out that they intend to kill it, she decides to launch a rescue effort.

Sally Hawkins plays an “odd” woman in the Elisa role, somewhat reminiscent of Maudie from last year, where she played a crippled artist.

The Shape of Water got very high reviews by the community. To me, it was a letdown. First, I don’t understand the title. I am not sure what the shape of water is supposed to mean, other than there is an amphibian man in the leading role.

Spoilers following:

The amphibian man is a human in a fish costume, who makes odd sounds, and supposedly can breathe air with lungs and water with gills. The movie makes no effort to explain if the creature is supposed to be an alien or an evolved human swamp creature. Through the course of the movie Elisa ends up in a sexual relationship with the amphibian man, so I assume he’s supposed to be human. But then, why are the government agents so stupid and act like they are not expecting the creature to be intelligent, or have feelings, like a human does. He sure looks like a human in a fish suit! The whole plot, and many of its components, just didn’t make sense to me, to a degree where I found it distracting.

But then, perhaps the whole story was meant to be a fairytale and I was not supposed to reason about it? Maybe I was supposed to just enjoy it?

I am not sure if The Shape of Water is a fairy tale, a science fiction thriller, or a mystery romance story. It has components of all of those.

In the end, I walked out of the movie somewhat unsatisfied.


Movie Review: Zodiac

Starting in the 1960s, and going forward through the decades, a serial killer, who picked seemingly random victims, raged in the San Francisco area. He wrote messages to the media in advance to “prove” he was the killer and took tokens of evidence at the crime scene.

This inspired an intense manhunt.

Zodiac is an intense crime thriller and includes great, talented performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo.


Here is a worthwhile post from a conservative blogger I follow. There are some things I appreciate about Trump — did I really just say that? — but this is one of them. We need  to stop sending American money by the container-load overseas, where it provides fodder for corruption, and where it creates its own subculture of dependencies.

Read the Chiefio’s post and marvel for yourself!

$Billion to Palestine? For what? Dear Mr. Trump: Just stop sending our money to people who hate us. Please.

via $3/4 Billion for Palestine? WTF? — Musings from the Chiefio

I write so many critical posts about our country and government that it could seem that I don’t like the place. The contrary is true. This is my adoptive country, and I love it, and I love living here. I am often reminded about this, but it’s not as newsworthy as a corrupt administration or an inept government. Here is something I love about this country:

Its great size and climatic diversity.

Last week, on December 29, I was at the Seattle airport waiting for my flight home to San Diego, via Los Angeles. I had just spent two days in the Seattle area, and it had been raining solid. Not just a drizzle, real, steady, cold, wet rain in temperatures in the 35° F / 2° C range. The airline gate representative was managing two flights, mine to Los Angeles at gate 10, and another to Chicago at gate 11. He made the announcement that the two flights would be boarding at about the same time, and it was important that we passengers would get on the right plane. “One is going to a warm and sunny place, and the other is going to a very, very cold place.” At the time, the temperature in Los Angeles was 82° F / 28° C, and Chicago was around 10° F / -12° C. I was glad I was going to Los Angeles.

Tomorrow I was supposed to travel to Boston. But they are expecting a blizzard on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s 17° F there right now. It was over 80° F here in San Diego today and sunny. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be in that cold right now, yet, I am only about five flight hours away. Needless to say, I canceled my trip, and I am staying in town. I’d rather be home and warm, than stranded in some forlorn airport in a snowed-in city with no way out.

What I love about this country: That you can go to any type of weather, from bitter winter, to balmy sunshine in just a few hours and never have to leave the country. There are very few places in the world where that is possible.

So the president is acting like he has something to do with airline safety?

The last time there was a death in the United States due to an airline accident was 2009.

There were zero deaths in:

  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016

Oh, yes, Trump is making America safe again.

More than three years after finishing Morning Moon over Kensington, a painting done in oil on a plywood panel, I finally today hung it outdoors. David A. of Urban Reclaimed Woods built a farm table for our porch out of scaffolding boards, which is visible in the foreground. I asked him to make me a frame out of the same type of scaffolding wood.

Here is the painting, proudly hanging outside on the back porch, in 82° F weather, when the rest of the country is suffering brutal cold.

As I have done for pretty much all my life, when a new Star Wars movie comes out, I go see it within the first few days. It is a ritual, a rite, something I do, and I know it’s the same for many of my contemporaries.

As usual with Star Wars, I can’t really follow the plot. There are always people who are on far-away planets who are needed for help with some impossible task and emissaries go to find those people. Then there are the mysterious telepathic connections between the Jedi and his disciples, which transcend time and space. Luke, who is the protagonist of this movie, is not very satisfying as a character. He is the last Jedi, but a burned-out one, a reluctant one, and a lot of the movie’s energy is spent on making Luke just do the right thing. To me, that is not much of a plot.

My favorite and repeated complaint with Star Wars is about its disregard for physics. Spaceships don’t fly, they just wink in and out of ordinary space when they go into lightspeed seemingly without acceleration. Except when it’s the old Millennium Falcon, which seems to have superpowers and always flies like a fighter plane in the atmosphere, pulling tight curves, whether it’s in space or not. Fighters continue to fly like there is air, and orbital dynamics is completely ignored.

My most enjoyable experience with Star Wars is usually its depiction of aliens in ordinary settings. I can think of the classic bar scenes that seem to be customary in all episodes. This time, there is only a short sequence in a casino, where there are a few aliens, but they are all humanoids. It seems the entire Star Wars galaxy has devolved into humans with head masks. I am sure that’s to make production cheap, but it’s trite and uninspiring to me. Why isn’t there ever a real alien that is part of the mainline plot? No, I don’t mean another Jar Jar Binks, who himself was nothing but a human in an amphibious suit.

This episode does not tell much of a story and seems to exist only to set the stage for the sunsetting of the two characters most intimately associated with Star Wars: Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill, of course) and Princess Lea (played for the last time by the late Carrie Fisher). We say our good byes to both of them, amid a story of fireballs of exploding ships, spaceships racing in tight spaces, comical droids, rubber-mask aliens, desert rust-bucket floater-ship races and a Wookie.

There is nothing new in this episode. The franchise has run out of original ideas and every movie is just a collection of old concepts and special effects, rendered on a new stage, in a slightly different story between good and evil.

True to Star Wars legacy, every conflict in the galaxy is eventually resolved by a swordfight between two humans. All the action stops, high-tech weaponry goes silent, armies of star troopers vanish, spaceships float inactively, the crescendo of the music rises, and the light sabers zap out of their handles. Plot resolved. Deus ex machina.

Will I go see the next episode in a year or so?

Probably.

 

 

The Disaster Artist is a pretty good movie about the making of the worst movie in the history of  the world, The Room, which I reviewed here.

I found it hilariously funny, and I must admit that I laughed more out loud than I remember laughing in a movie in a long time. Maybe it was because of the infectious laughs of my son, daughter and son-in-law who took me, maybe it’s because the rest of the theater was laughing, or, just maybe it’s because The Disaster Artist is just a great comedy by itself.

To understand The Disaster Artist, and to really enjoy it, I think you have to have watched The Room. I am not sure if the movie would be funny without knowing the background, the true story of the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, a crackpot goof-ball who spent over six million dollars of his own money to make a vanity movie of epic badness.

Be that as it may, The Room is forever a cult classic, and The Disaster Artist may well generate some Oscars.

Trump the Hippo

Have you ever seen a video of a hippopotamus twirling its tail like a propeller spreading shit all around behind itself?

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