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I am an independent voter. I do not vote for a party, or a platform, or an ideology. I vote for the person. When I look at the three front-runners in the Democratic Party, I have serious concerns. Then I saw this Huffington Post article, and it looks like Obama has the same concerns:

Though Obama did not mention anyone by name, the message delivered before a room of Democratic donors in Washington was a clear word of caution about the candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The two have called for massive structural changes — and in Sanders’ case “revolution” — that would dramatically alter the role of government in people’s lives.

Huffington Post Article on 11/16/2019

The bottom line of the message by Obama is that we need candidates who are in the “middle of the road” ideologically to be electable, otherwise the incumbent wins. Here are my concerns about the three front-runners:

Biden: He is too bumbling. He makes too many gaffes. He is not a very good speaker. (Of course, Trump can’t put a sentence together if his life depends on it, so that may not be a big problem). He would be, by far, the oldest president ever, which raises all kinds of health and senility concerns, so his vice presidential pick will be more important than ever.

Sanders: I love the man’s enthusiasm, energy and spunk. I wanted him to win in 2016 and voted for him in the primaries. But he has to stop talking about revolutions. Nobody wants revolutions. People want stability. He has to get better economic advisers, because a $15/hour minimum wage across the country is a ludicrous idea. It will not work, and it will destroy many of the service sectors which are so vital to our economy that is depending on an ever larger service sector. You have probably figured it out by now, but I am not in favor of the minimum wage craze the Democrats promote. But that’s fodder for another blog post entirely – to come soon.

Warren: She is somewhat younger than the other Democrats, but not by much. I like her stature, her energy, and her candor. But her healthcare platform is ridiculous. I have had employer-sponsored healthcare plans all my life, and I like the one I have right now, along with another some 160 million people around the country. So creating a universal health plan for all the people that are not covered for whatever reason is good, but making me abandon my plan so I can sign up for some government-cooked-up-plan is a non-starter. I will not vote for that. Period. And then I have a serious problem with Warren’s (and Sanders’) vilification of rich people and billionaires. It makes no sense to me at all, and yes, that too is fodder for another blog post – to come soon.

Those were the front runners. In a nation of 330 million people, those are the three we come up with to stand against Trump? Those are my choices? There are a few other worthy candidates in the field, but none of them are getting any traction.

Re-elect Trump, this will.

 

*

via The Least and Most Trusted News Sources — Know-It-All

JoJo Rabbit is a satire. It is cartoonish and grotesque, and for the first half of the movie I really didn’t know what to do with it. It plays with an intense subject matter, the Jewish prosecution in Nazi Germany and how it was possible for an entire nation of people to be led to play along with such an obscene objective.

We all know it happened. JoJo Rabbit tells the story of a lonely and awkward 10-year-old German boy named JoJo who, as all children of his time, joined the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), an organization that brainwashed children from an early age by subjecting them to Nazi doctrine and the personality cult Hitler fostered. Peer pressure did the rest. Create a “family” of like-minded people, in this case children, who are told that their mission is a noble one of creating a pure and good empire and eradicate all bad, ugly, evil and low, and you have an entire generation of followers who never knew otherwise and think nothing of ratting out their own parents for the good of the country.

When JoJo finds a Jewish girl hidden in the attic in their house, it creates a conflict for him that he does not know how to work through.

JoJo Rabbit exposes what went on during the Nazi regime, and it makes us think about what is happening today. We vilify foreigners, especially a certain type of foreigner, we build walls to keep us protected from them by supposedly keeping them out. We know the walls don’t work, they never did, they never will, but we tell our children and our people who do not think for themselves that walls are good, and the illusion feeds on itself. We hold up an emperor, and it does not matter if he wears any clothes. We follow him, because we don’t know what else to do to solve our problems.

When the emperor starts killing and putting uniforms on 10-year-old boys so they can go out and die, the people still follow because they don’t know any better.

JoJo Rabbit shows how this works.

It disturbed and unsettled me.

 

 

Evelyn Slater is a young British astronaut on the International Space Station in the near future in 2036. She is a mission specialist with a psychology degree who is assigned to command the first spacecraft specifically designed to capture and destroy low earth orbit debris. During the first mission out with her Russian pilot Yuri, they encounter an artifact they immediately recognize as alien. When she eventually returns to earth, Evelyn leads a team of scientists who study the alien device.

The Visitor is a first contact science fiction story that plays largely in today’s world. It speculates about the response of our international community when it discovers that there truly are aliens. Xenophobia, religious hate and bigotry get the masses riled up.

The author writes in a stilted style. He does not show the story, he tells the story. It’s not clear why he picked a woman as the protagonist. It would have worked just as well with a man, and he would likely have been able to portray the male thinking a little bit better. The Visitor is described as a “hard science fiction” story, but it did not strike me as very hard. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of life on the space station. He must have had access to first hand information. Otherwise, the story is weak and, frankly, not very interesting. All the characters are flat and colorless. Nothing seems real or realistic. Reading The Visitor, I was constantly aware of the fact that it was just the author’s way to communicate his political and philosophical views, thinly wrapped into a shallow plot.

At the end, he sets it up for a sequel, and I don’t think I am interested enough to read it.

Movie Review: Joker

The Joker is a comic book character, a supervillain, psychopath and criminal mastermind who reigned over his empire in Gotham, the arch nemesis of Batman. The movie Joker is a prequel to the numerous Batman movies, but completely unrelated to them. It explains how the Joker came to be in the form of a stand-alone fictional story.

There is nothing funny about the Joker. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a clown for hire during the day. He puts on gaudy makeup and twirls signs in the city streets. When he goes home and his makeup is off, he dreams of being a stand-up comic. He writes joke material into his journal and performs in comic joints at night when he can get a gig. Maybe one day he’ll make it big.

But things are not easy for him. He supports his ailing mother, who has a secret or two of her own. He battles severe depression and desperately tries to cope with his illness by taking a multitude of medications and going to counseling. As a clown in a degenerate society where the social gaps between the desperate masses and the super powerful is huge, he is a perpetual victim of his purported friends, and of the bullies on the street.

When he gets beat up in the subway by a group of young Wall Street thugs he snaps and kills all three of them. That was his first blood. It wasn’t his last.

Joker is a story about mental illness in our society. It’s a dark, depressing, heavy depiction of a man with a will, a yearning for a decent life, a successful and rewarding career, who gets beaten. He get beaten by kids on the street, beaten down by his upbringing, beaten by his workmates, beaten into submission by his superiors, beaten by the mental illness support system of his city: “Where am I supposed to get my medication now?”

Joker is a story about the immense differences between the classes of society. There is the corrupt political layer, where the powerful enrich themselves by the labor of the masses and where those same elites convince the people that they have their welfare in mind. Does that have any parallels in our society this very day?

Joker is a movie with one main actor – Joaquin Phoenix – who portrays a comic book character with fierce intensity and relentless passion. I predict he’ll get an Oscar for this role.

When we left the movie Joker, we needed to distract our minds. Be prepared. It takes a lot out of you.

But you have to go!

 

 

 

Today, on my way to Orlando, Florida, with a stopover at Dallas/Forth-Worth, I had an excellent view of the entire DFW airport in clear weather – which is very rare. Usually, flying into DFW, you come in from the distance and never see the whole airport in one view.

DFW Airport [click to enlarge]

This got me thinking about the common saying that the DFW airport is larger than the island of Manhattan. This is, in fact, true: Manhattan is 22.82 square miles. DFW is 27 square miles.

DFW is also the 10th largest airport in the world, and the 4th largest in the United States, by passenger count.

Here is a list:

In 1990 I visited England for work. I stayed in a few hotels in the Manchester area and I remember noticing that, oddly, the phones did not always work. This was before mobile phones existed. In America, when you picked up a landline phone, you always got a dial tone. You dialed, and if you had a correct number, you got through. Not so in England at the time. Occasionally you picked up the phone and it was just dead. Or you dialed, and it didn’t go through. Rattling the cradle didn’t work. Sometimes the phone would just not function, and you’d have to wait a while, and try again. I remember being astonished how that was possible in a modern country in 1990. England was the only and undisputed superpower in the world for centuries, until it faded in the earlier part of the 20th century and got replaced by the United States as the dominant military and economic power. But it could not keep its phone system working properly. I don’t know what the reason was exactly, but I attributed it to lack of properly maintained, modern infrastructure.

Now I live in California. It’s thirty years later, almost 2020. California is one of the largest economies in the world. With a population of 40 million people, it is also the size of a larger country. As Californians, we are proud of the progressiveness of the state and its people. Many of the world’s most prominent companies are based in California. It is the undisputed capital of entrepreneurism in the world. Many Californians live in modern, large and expensive homes. Our emissions standards are some of the highest in the world. We try to take care of our environment. Lots of our energy is derived from renewable sources. We are one of the leaders in wind-generated power.

Yet, in recent weeks, millions of Californians had to deal with power blackouts because, ironically, the wind was blowing. In recent years, the large utility companies had been found responsible for creating the sparks that started wildfires during the fire season due to faulty equipment and infrastructure. The resulting lawsuits have pushed those utility companies to the brink of bankruptcy. To avoid further damage and liability, the utilities have resorted to simply turning off the power in areas of high danger. Millions of people found their homes without power in the last few days. Businesses were shut down. Traffic lights went off. Chaos ensued. Contents of freezers spoiled in homes and grocery stores. Restaurants were closed. Enormous amounts of economic activity didn’t happen, and losses are in the billions.

California is now experiencing third-world conditions, where we cannot rely on the power to be on. This is, of course, far worse than the lack of a dial tone in England in 1990. The utility companies have not been keeping their infrastructure sound. Wind, even high wind, should not cause wildfires all by itself. Powerlines should not fall down and spark fires. Trump made it a campaign promise to sponsor infrastructure development, and so far, he has done nothing, or possibly less than nothing.

We are stagnant in this country. Our roads are crumbling. Our bridges are rusting away. Our airports are reminiscent of dystopian movies. If you don’t believe me, fly into Newark or LaGuardia sometime. We have no high-speed rail system. There is no direct rail connection to some of our major airports, like JFK or LAX.

And our power grid in California no longer works when the wind blows. California’s government is misguided, and it has its priorities confused. As Holman W. Jenkins Jr. puts it so aptly in his Opinion column in the Wall Street Journal of October 30, 2019:

Elites subsidize electric cars for themselves while promoting zoning that forces low-income workers to commute three hours to a job or live in their cars. PG&E can’t keep trees off its power lines, but it can supply exact numbers for how many LGBTQ workers it employs.

 

 

Apparently Trump’s campaign thinks I am a Republican, so it keeps sending me requests for money. They are always accompanied by surveys. Please note, I am not a Republican, but I am also not a Democrat. That does not mean I haven’t voted all Democrat in 2016 and 2018. I usually vote for the character, not the party. But I digress. Here is the survey I received a few days ago.

Check out the questions in the red box (my highlight). It says I should indicate how “important each is to me” by checking Moderately, Strongly or Uncertain. For ease of your reading, I will list the questions here again:

  • Stop Illegal Immigration
  • Protect Our Borders
  • Stop Socialized Medicine
  • Keep Fighting Unfair Trade Practices
  • Continue Appointing Pro-Constitution Judges
  • Keep Taxes Low
  • Always Keep America’s Interest And Security the First Priority

At first look, it’s a list every thinking American should check “Strongly” for all of them. Of course nobody thinks it’s a good idea to have illegal immigration, and we have been wanting to stop it forever. And yes, we need to protect our borders. Every country does. I am not sure I ever met an American who thinks it’s a good idea to have no borders.

Stop socialized medicine is a weird statement. What is socialized medicine. Just today I spent four hours in an emergency room accompanying my sister from overseas who needed urgent care. I watched an endless stream of humanity coming through the doors. Screaming babies. Construction workers with bleeding faces, people limping in on crutches. People with bandaged arms. People with face masks. All were processed, all were treated. I am sure most will get a substantial bill. And I am also sure some won’t be able to pay. But all got help. Does “stop socialized medicine” mean that we have guards at the door keeping out the man with the bleeding face because he does not have an American Express card in his wallet? What is the solution for that? I don’t want to “stop any medicine” but I do think we should have a medical insurance system that does not result in my bankruptcy if I happen to get broadsided in my Prius by an uninsured driver in a pickup truck. I want to make sure I can be hauled through those doors and somebody will set my bones and stop the bleeding and give me IVs so I have a chance to heal and live.

Trump wants to know how important it is to keep fighting unfair trade practices. Hell, yes. It’s important. Unfortunately, I am not at all convinced that Trump knows anything about trade or the economy in general. The stock market has flattened out in the last year. The deficit is now a trillion dollars a year. The deficit and debt have increased in every one of Trump’s three years and the debt is now higher than ever. This is the man who said “I will pay off the federal debt in eight years.” He has done exactly the opposite. We are drowning in debt, both personal and public. The “fiscally responsible” Republicans who screamed about the debt ceiling raises by Obama every year don’t even talk about it anymore now. Trump is running the country like his casinos, and many of them went bankrupt. The economy is important to me, but I don’t think Trump knows what he is doing at all.

Obviously, “Pro-Constitution” Judges is a euphemism. Every sane American will want Pro-Constitution Judges. There needs to be a definition what Pro-Constitution even means.

I want to keep taxes low. But I think that raising the deficit by 26% alone this year so our richest of the richest can keep more of their money does not make sense. How the Republicans were able to convince a majority of this country, mostly working people who live paycheck to paycheck and have no idea what it’s like to have a million dollars in the bank to go along with this is beyond me. But go along they do. They have me baffled.

Trumps handling of Syria recently is, in my opinion, the complete opposite of “Keeping America’s Interest And Security the First Priority.” American soldiers overseas were put into harm’s way. After spending billions every month in the middle east, we just handed Syria to the Russians on a silver plate. I am dumbfounded.

Overall, these questions make no sense to me. Why bother? I suspect they put them there so make people feel better about sending in their money. Checking all those questions with Strongly does not say anything. There is no statistical value to these results even if they were tallied. I don’t think they are.

Trump must think we’re all dumb. Remember when he stated “I love the uneducated!” Go send Trump your money! Watch Trump’s campaign finance practices and observe where the money is going – then decide to write a check.

Why don’t you send a dollar to me while you’re at it? I promise I will put it to good use making America great again.

Attorney General Barr [photo by Mark Thiessen / AP]

Attorney General Barr to Facebook: We need ‘lawful access’ to users’ digital messages to fight crime.

I say: Oh, no, you don’t, Mr. Barr!

The United States Justice Department wants “lawful access” to our private communications. This is 1984 stuff. This is Nazi SS tactics. This is Gestapo playbook.

Once the government can snoop, it can manipulate, and any one of us is completely exposed to the potential terror machine it might want to unleash.

And do not tell me that we don’t have rogue governments who are in it for their own enrichment and use organized crime tactics to get what they want and extort wealth from the citizenry.

You might call this “overreacting.” Read my lips:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller, a Nazi dissident

Make no mistake about it, my friends. They are now coming for us.

Joseph Bridgeman and the Silver Hunter starts on the day the story of The Unexpected Gift of Joseph Bridgeman ends. It’s a sequel. After saving his sister Amy in the first book, Joe now has to change history by preventing the murder of a young woman in London in 1962 by one of the two notorious crime bosses of the era.

The story is entertaining and well-crafted. It kept me reading. Time travel was again the central plot mechanism in this story, but it was a different kind of time travel.

That was a bit disconcerting.

In the first book, Joe travels by self-hypnosis. He essentially wills himself into the past. With practice, he can pinpoint an exact date and even time and place and transport himself to that. To get back home, the timestream simply pulls him back, is if he were attached to the present by a rubber band. Furthermore, the further he travels back in time, the shorter the time is that he gets to stay in the past before he is pulled back, sort of like a rubber band that is stretched farther and has to snap him back sooner and harder. An unfortunate side-effect is that his clothes and any other objects get pulled back faster, so he ends up naked in the past if he does not watch out and prepare and quickly steal or buy some local clothes. As you can see, the rules of the type of time travel he practices are very precise and they limit his options.

In the second book, somewhat inexplicably, he has been “untethered” by the time travel powers that be. Now he can travel much further back, he can stay longer, he does not lose his clothes, and he is completely controlled by a magic “watch” which warns him with a count-down before he travels, and with another count-down before he returns. We don’t find out who builds the watch, who controls it, and how it works.

Oddly, while Joe was very proficient in the first book with his hypnotic time travel, he does not even attempt it at all in the second. It’s almost like the author decided that the rules of time travel he introduced in his first book didn’t work for him, so he just started over with new and seemingly inconsistent rules.

I found this distracting. When I read a time travel series, I expect the methodology, and the universal rules, to remain consistent. This was done very well by Nathan Van Coops in his series of four books, starting with In Times Like These. The rules are solid and remain solid.

In these books, the author just started over again, used the same characters, threw them into a different plot, and changed all the rules.

The last chapter in this book set him up for another sequel as Joe’s sister Amy writes him a letter from the future. Will I read the third book when it comes out? Probably not.

 

Today I got a great view of Niagara Falls from 30,000 feet.

Niagara Falls [click to enlarge]

To make it a bit more detailed, I used the digital zoom on my iPhone:

And for those of my readers, who have never been there and won’t know what they are looking at, here are a couple of labels:

 


Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut in the nearer future, a time when trips to the Moon and to Mars are routine and humanity has started venturing farther out, mining the asteroid belt, and reaching for the gas giants. When Earth is suddenly bombarded by massive and destructive power surges from a mystery energy source at the planet Neptune, McBride is recruited to help. As it turns out, the only person who ever traveled to Neptune was his own father, a decorated astronaut who was the first to reach Jupiter, then Saturn, and finally embarked on a mission to the edge of the solar system, to Neptune, presumably to seek out alien intelligence in the universe. But when he arrived, he and his crew perished and were never heard from again – or were they?

NASA suspects that the elder McBride near Neptune is still alive and has something to do with the power surges that threaten to destroy the earth. In order to communicate with him, NASA recruits his son, Roy McBride, because they think the father is likely to respond to the son. And thus he goes on a long journey.

Ad Astra is the Latin expression for “to the stars.” There nothing about stars in this movie, other than neat special effects of space travel. The entire movie and the ludicrous story that does not make any sense just seem to be an excuse to string together some interesting and effective special effects.

I watch pretty much every “large” science fiction movie because I am interested in space travel and humanity in the future. So I enjoyed the movie, even though it insulted my intelligence every few minutes along the way. There is so much wrong with this story, it’s hard to know where to start.

Warning: Significant Spoilers Below – even though I don’t think they’ll really interfere with your enjoyment of the movie, since it’s such a weak plot anyway.

First the basic premise: NASA recruits Roy for the top secret mission to travel to Mars, via the Moon, to send a message to Neptune to his father, with the option to eventually fly out to Neptune to stop the threat to the Earth. The journey to the moon is equivalent to an airline ride coast to coast for us. It’s all routine. But when they arrive on the moon, for some odd reason, they have to travel by rover overland to another base from where the rocket to Mars is launched. But there are now pirates on the moon, and they prey on travelers and attack them by rover. Everyone is in spacesuits and they are shooting each other up, like in a western, but rather than riding horses, they ride rovers in space suits. I wonder what the pirates are trying to gain. The whole chase is just a useless filler that takes up 5 or 10 minutes of movie time and adds nothing to the story.

Along the way to Mars, there is a mayday call from a research vessel, and the ship stops to try to help. I will spare you with what happens on that research vessel. It again has nothing to do with the movie other than adding some special effects footage and scary scenes. The problem is, how did the chemical rocket they were riding to Mars stop along the way, line up with the stranded vessel and match trajectories so they can board via space suit? And then start up again going on to Mars. The trip to Mars is supposed to take a few days, so the stopping and starting along the way would have taken massive amounts of acceleration that no human could possibly endure. But, it’s a movie, I guess.

Once Roy arrives on Mars, he is guided into a secret sound-proof room where he records a message to his father that is then sent to Neptune via a laser beam. After sending the second message, it appears there is a response. That is quite odd, since Neptune is about four light hours away from Mars, so the round trip of a message would take eight hours. You would not stand there waiting for it. But that’s what it looks like they are doing. Then they decide to send Roy back to Earth because they think he is not psychologically ready to continue with the mission. So explain to me why Roy bothered to travel to the Moon, get attacked and almost killed by pirates, then on to Mars, just to record a message? He could have recorded that message in his living room on Earth and they could have sent it to Neptune.But, it’s a movie, I guess.

He eventually forces his way onto the ship that travels on to Neptune. The trip will take 79 days. Again, massive accelerations and speeds are required to make that happen, and it’s not clear how the simple chemical rocket technology they have accomplishes that. As we observe him on his journey, there are some convenient shots of the ship right in front of Jupiter first, and then a bit later of Saturn, as if the outer planets were all lined up in a straight line and the ship would travel from one to the other. As it is, the planets are spread out all over the solar system, often on different sides of  the sun, and a rough alignment only happens every few centuries. It seems to have happened for Roy’s journey.

Neptune has a thin set of rings. Roy put his craft in an orbit right above the plane of the rings, so he has to conveniently dive through the rings to get to the craft of his father. I enjoy thinking about floating in the rings of Saturn, and I wrote this entire post about that. So I enjoyed that scene, even though it was way too contrived. I also got a kick out of how Roy decided to return to his craft through the rings after he loses his shuttle. He uses a sheet metal panel to protect himself against impact of ring particles as the dives through. Then he finally gets back and collides with his own craft due to their velocities not being matched very well. Good scene there.

Finally, when the movie is over, somehow Roy has to travel back to Earth. To do that, he invokes a Deus ex Machina technique: he uses a nuclear explosion to propel him. Somehow the three dimensional vector between the nuclear explosion and his ship is perfectly aligned so the ship travels through the 2 billion miles plus back to Earth and hits it exactly. Yeah, sure!

As you can see, this is a movie for people that do not understand science, know nothing about space travel, and just want to see neat special effects. They might enjoy this

For the geeks, like me, Ad Astra is just silly and a waste of a good opportunity. All that money and technology could have made a good movie and a good story instead.


Three questions come to mind:

  • Which of these children cried: “How dare you, you have stolen my dreams and my childhood!”
  • Which of these children was never given the opportunity to cry?
  • Which of these children had the slightest reason to lament and complain?

In the 26th century, Earth is a polluted wasteland. For hundreds of years, humanity’s situation has devolved, scientific progress has been retrograde, culture has stagnated, and government is utterly corrupt. A small number of giant “megacorporations” run things. Under their thumbs are governments, government agencies, and all of the people. The gap between the privileged and the destitute has grown immensely. The megacorporations do what is good for them and their shareholders, and they have no qualms about annihilating thousands or millions of people, if they are in their way. The people live in utmost poverty and need, eking out a living by planting, salvaging and living off the land.

The desperate live on the depleted Earth, which by then is the least attractive place to live. The lucky and fortunate ones live on the moons of the gas giants or in space in general.

James Griffin-Mars is a Chronman, a highly trained specialist, one of an elite few, who have the technology to travel in time. ChronoCom is a government agency that regulates time travel. Strict time laws are in force, intended to prevent accidents, time paradoxes and intended or accidental changes of history.

Chronmen are usually deployed by the agency to salvage. Since technology development has devolved, the most interesting and valuable technologies are hundreds of years in the past. The Chronmen are dispatched to jump to a time and place just before some known disaster, and take away valuables, either machinery, artwork, documents, books, anything of value to salvage before the disaster wipes it out anyway. The majority of progress in the 26th century does not come from invention and innovation, but from salvaged loot from the past.

Chronmen lead very dangerous lives, and most do not last very long. James is on the brink of burnout when he takes on one last mission, where the payoff is so high, he can retire when he completes it. During the mission he gets to know Elise, a young female scientist on an oceanic platform in 2097 where his mission is to save some technology hours before the platform explodes and sinks into the ocean, killing all people aboard. When the disaster strikes, and he has captured the loot, without actually planning for it, he takes Elise home with him, more than 400 years into the future. Of course, bringing anyone back from the past violates the first time law. This forces James and Elise to become fugitives on the wasted Earth, trying to survive in the wilderness, undetected by the government trying to hunt them down. In the process of saving themselves, the opportunity to save the planet arises and gives hope not only to the two of them, but to all humanity.

Time Salvager is a story about a dystopian future, think Orwell’s 1984 on steroids. Graphic descriptions of the squalor most of humanity lives in are contrasted by the high-tech excesses of the elite. Transformer-like technology abounds and gives soldiers and agents superhuman capabilities. Reading Time Salvager is like watching a superhero movie, where the heroes are indestructible due to the magical technology and the power it gives them.

At a time when the income gap between poor and rich is widening, climate change is daily sensational news, corruption of government is rampant and abuse of power is becoming acceptable and normal, reading Time Salvager is a strong reminder of how bad it can get. It’s not a pleasant read, but entertaining nonetheless, and definitely thought-provoking.

A few years ago when I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I saw Matisse’s Tea in the Garden, which I consider a really bad painting, and I called it such in my review.

On Wednesday at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, I had a similar experience.

Here is Milton Avery’s Two Figures (1963). There are a number of Avery paintings in that museum, but this one struck me as the worst. It’s a large painting and I consider it spectacularly bad.

Look at the drawing. The pencil outlines are clearly visible. They are crude and the artist made no attempt to make them realistic or abstract. They are just sloppy and sketchy. Then he quickly colored in the main fields. He used six colors, no mixing, and no effort to cover evenly even to make it at least look clean.

I swear, I could do this painting in 20 minutes and it would look more pleasing than this does.

I have a lot of paintings that are much better than this that are stacked in my garage, never to be seen – sometimes to be painted over to at least reuse the canvas. But Milton Avery’s Two Figures in prominently displayed in the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Somebody explain that to me!

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