Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year’s Eve 2019

Does anything define this decade quite as well as an internet meme?


Yes, it’s New Year’s Eve already. It’s pointless to note that the years roar by with alarming speed these days, you already know that. And as everyone else will be doing a decade recap I won’t bother with that either.

However I would like to point out that tonight’s celebration is not without controversy. Because we don’t have enough to argue about…the internet is now shouting at each other over whether the new decade begins at the stroke of midnight tonight or if it actually begins a year hence on January 1, 2021.

There is a group of One True Decade Pedagogues (OTDP) who insist it is the later.  Apparently the argument rests on the difference between the Julian calendar, which had no zero, and the Gregorian calendar, which does. They argue that since there is no year 0 in the Anno Domini system – created in the days of the Julian calendar - the first year ever was year 1. Therefore, the first year of any and all subsequent decades is the one ending in 1.

Since we have operated on the Gregorian calendar for millennials (since 1582), and because it was invented in order to correct inaccuracies in the Julian calendar, it seems a no-brainer to me but apparently that argument is not persuasive to the OTDP.

People making this pedantic point ought to be banned from commenting on Twitter and forums for the next decade. There are already far too many irrelevant and pointless-but-true factoids clogging up the internet.

And did we not already have this argument back in the dark days at the turn of the century? The fact that all the doomsday triggers that the Y2K alarmists were terrified of but never happened kicked in on January 1, 2000 ought to be sufficient to end this silly debate. Give it a rest, nobody wants to argue about arcane issues for an entire millennium.

Merriam-Webster agrees that popular culture and common usage has determined and defined that decades end after the 9 year. That’s good enough for me yet I know that somewhere, somehow that fact alone will convince the Decade Purists that they are right. To them I say SHUT UP ALREADY! You’ve already caused enough damage.

But if they wish to continue to make their correct but inconsequential point fine, the rest of us will be ringing in the 21st century’s own Roaring 20’s )HT PDJT) – perhaps by popping a bottle of Moet Chandon. Which I just found out I’ve been mispronouncing for decades, no matter how you count them, thanks to Queen:

For the record, you DO pronounce the “t” in Moet. It’s a Dutch name, I should have known that.

So get your dancing shoes out and have a great New Year’s Eve regardless of which decade you’re celebrating!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Common Core Math Goes to the Betting Window

Before I begin let me say that the objectives of Common Core Math sound good, especially to people like me who need to understand concepts before proceeding to mechanics:

Greater focus on fewer topics

The Common Core calls for greater focus in mathematics. Rather than racing to cover many topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, the standards ask math teachers to significantly narrow and deepen the way time and energy are spent in the classroom. This means focusing deeply on the major work of each grade

  • In grades K–2: Concepts, skills, and problem solving related to addition and subtraction
  • In grades 3–5: Concepts, skills, and problem solving related to multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions
  • In grade 6: Ratios and proportional relationships, and early algebraic expressions and equations
  • In grade 7: Ratios and proportional relationships, and arithmetic of rational numbers
  • In grade 8: Linear algebra and linear functions

This focus will help students gain strong foundations, including a solid understanding of concepts, a high degree of procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the classroom.

This approach, in the abstract, greatly appeals to me as I was never good at memorizing and never “got” math until I understood it conceptually (which I had to figure out on my own as none of my teachers ever taught it that way).

Unfortunately like everything else entrusted to the well-meaning liberal world of academia they failed miserably in the implementation.

Hence we get frustrated parents

and a generation even less proficient in math than previous ill-educated kids.

And now here comes Michael Bloomberg, a man who clearly understands math, speciously announcing his plans for the War on Poverty 2.0.

“As president, my job will be to move all Americans ahead, and that includes committing our country to new and innovative ways to combat poverty. There has to be a war on poverty,” the New York billionaire said while campaigning in Stockton.

What a good idea, especially since the last one worked out so well. After 50 years and $22 trillion the country’s poverty level is only slightly lower then it was the year LBJ launched the first War on Poverty. And that slight drop is due to President Donald J. Trump’s policies, not any of the Washington give-away programs. So using the powers of extrapolation, which you won’t learn in common core math, my suggestion - if we really want to lower the poverty rate in this country - is to reelect the President.

Either that or just give a million dollars to all 40 million poor people in America and save money by cutting out all the middlemen.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Diabolus ex Machina

True story: my Park City neighbor checks on our house once a week while we are in Michigan. She sent me a text yesterday saying that when she entered the house she heard something upstairs so she went up to check. (Aside: A #1, don’t EVER do that! Especially if you are a sweet trusting liberal who actually believes ‘it could never happen here’ and therefore would never dream of owning a gun let alone carry one.) She found the TV in the bedroom on. She attempted to turn it off with first the TV remote and then the Dish remote. Neither worked. She changed batteries in both but they still wouldn’t shut it off so she unplugged it.

Of course I had no idea why this would happen but much to my dismay, neither did Raj. He’s tech support! He’s supposed to know everything! To say that’s creepy is an understatement. And yes, we have home security, cameras and a Ring doorbell but we also have a very strong firewall. But somehow technology seems to have gotten out in front of us both. The Deus ex machina morphed into Diabolus ex machina so slowly that hardly anyone noticed.

Related image

I don’t know what evil spirit has inhabited our television but I suspect it will attempt to extort some form of payment before returning control of the remote device.  Image result for calvin hobbes tv devil

Possibly even a quid pro quo:         Image result for calvin hobbes tv devil

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century it seems prudent to point out - yet again - that 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction guide. Somehow you would think that “journalists” would be the last group on earth that would require that reminder but…

they seem to be the people taking the most notes.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

RIP You Old Cowboy

Image result for Imus show regulars Kenny Rob and charles McCord Bernard McGuirk

RIP old cowboy: Don Imus signed off for good yesterday. Love him or hate him he was pure Americana, a man who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps more than once. He fought and lost many battles with his twin demons vodka and cocaine before finally cleaning up. He was an equal opportunity offender and despite the fact that President Clinton was a regular call-in to his show, he took the opportunity of the 1996 annual White House Correspondence Dinner to make fun of Bubba’s womanizing - before the Monica shoe had ever dropped - and called him “a pot-smoking weasel” among other insults. How can you not love a guy like that?

Image result for imus clinton correspondents dinnerHe’s lucky he wasn’t Arkansided long ago

At its peak his show aired on New York’s WFAN, syndicated by CBS and simulcast on Ms.NBC television. I stumbled across his show one morning while getting ready for work and tuned into his show on the radio every morning there after on my commute to work. It was a vastly entertaining show in those days with his stable of talent including Charles McCord as the quiet sidekick, Rob Barrett and Larry Kenney as writers and impersonators who parodied entertainers and politicians from both sides of the aisle, and his crazy producer Bernard McGuirk. 

All this came screeching to a halt in 2007, the day Imus and McGuirk made fun of the Rutgers (predominantly black) basketball team. Imus, taking the bait from McGuirk, referred to the team members as “nappy-headed hos” and the media-verse went ballistic.

Most people credit the Rev Al Sharpton for getting Imus fired (for which he was rewarded with a Ms.NBC show of his own – some people might call that a bribe, or blackmail – although that seems racist – but most of us see it as a quid pro quo).

Image result for imus clintonImus on the air with the rev, in the first of many obsequious but futile apologies

In reality it was none other than Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama who did him in by calling for his head.

Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is running for president, called on MSNBC and CBS Radio to disassociate themselves from Mr. Imus, and said that he would never go on the show again.

Having already been deigned the Black Jesus by the media that made him, the moguls were already asking “how high” when he told them to jump.  And since the Obama 2007 campaign marked the rebirth of racism in America, Imus’ clearly racist remark could not go unpunished.

The rest is history: Imus was fired first by Ms.NBC, then CBS radio. Although he kept his show on WFAN it was no longer syndicated and therefore unavailable outside New York. RFDTV picked up the show for a brief stint and then Fox Business began to simulcast it. By that time however it stunk; the old team had fallen apart, Kenney was no longer part of the crew and then McCord mysteriously disappeared as well. Imus was no longer funny as he had become consciously and patronizingly politically correct. He had done precisely what he had once counseled people against: “never do it for the money.” Should have taken his own advice.

Image result for imus if we weren't so bad we wouldn't be good“If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

The show was no longer the least bit entertaining and I, like everyone else, stopped watching. The show slid into oblivion for obvious reasons and Imus finally retired a few years ago suffering with emphysema and prostate cancer. I shall always remember him fondly as the first and last non-PC talking head on Ms.NBC.

For the record, he was replaced by mealy mouthed Morning Joe, who will never utter gems like this: 

“That buck-tooth witch Satan, Hillary Clinton.” […] “I never admitted it when I went down there and got in all that big jam, insulting Bill Clinton and his fat ugly wife, Satan. Did I? Did I ever say I was sorry for that?” - Imus, on the Correspondents’ Dinner

For what it’s worth, I just have a feeling that PDJT enjoyed the Imus show too.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Normal Is Boring

There was a brief discussion yesterday about this paining by John F. Carlson (1874-1945) that pbird posted with the comment “not great, but nice” adding that “oddly, it feels a little off kilter to me.”

ThumbnailForest Silence

Although I quite like it, it does seem “a bit off kilter.” There is something not quite right and as I am a sometime painter, and ostensibly a left-brained one at that, my brain immediately wants to solve the “problem.” For me painting requires skill, inspiration, intuition and…yes, problem solving. While some true artists can do the latter exclusively with intuition those of us who aren’t that gifted need to do so analytically. 

It would help to see the original painting properly hung on a large, otherwise empty wall. I think it would immediately reveal the source of the problem which is with the sky, specifically the sky at the middle of the composition. Interestingly the problem is likewise more obvious in a much smaller format presentation:

With proper perspective you see that the tree branches at the center of the canvas are too dense, obliterating too much of the sky. 

All tree limb, no sky

Not saying that’s not what it looked like to the naked impressionistic eye but as all artists know, reality sometimes needs a little boost. The eye would land comfortably if the space were either completely obscured, as in Ocean’s Bridge…

Image result for john f. carlson paintings

or Winter In The Forest.

Image result for john f. carlson paintings

Or more completely open, as in Forest Quiet

Image result for john f. carlson paintings

Charles Weed solves a similar problem with dots of light breaking through the dense bramble in Beaches – Winter:

Can you tell what my New Year’s resolution is? It’s to get back into the studio in case that isn’t obvious either.

Anyway somebody commented yesterday that Winter Silence looked like a paint by number, which reminded me of one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes panels:

And as we all know, normal is boring.

Normal is Boring.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day 2019

Obviously I didn’t get that Time Decelerator I had on my Wish List as Christmas is now just another somewhat blurry entry in life’s memory book.

Image result for time deceleratorThe slo-mo Time Decelerator Helmut

It’s hard to believe it’s Boxing Day already. The day after Christmas holiday was invented by the Victorian Brits and originally was the day the rich let their help off so they could go celebrate with their own families; the masters would present a Christmas box of gifts to their servants to take with them. How quaint.

Boxing day has taken on different meanings in different places since then. None more different than in California where over half of the nation’s homeless now reside.

Image result for people living in boxesActually every day is boxing day in Cali.

The President has called their governor out on it as he was catching up on his tweetstream on Christmas:

Even the San Francisco Chronicle seems to have had it with the problem, coming down rather firmly on the President’s side:

The nation’s homelessness problem has to a disturbing degree become California’s homelessness problem. While the latest counts compiled by the federal government show that America’s homeless population is growing again after more than a decade of declines, the entire national increase and more can be attributed to California alone…

California’s dire statistics underscore the extent to which state and local policies drive an extraordinary and persistent failure to shelter the equivalent of a midsize city. Although the state has the worst housing shortage on the U.S. mainland, resistance to dealing with it remains endemic among the Legislature’s ruling Democrats and in nominally progressive cities such as San Francisco.

It’s amazing how long it takes for reality to hit some people upside the head. And that, my friends, is the real reason we still celebrate boxing day in America.

You’re free to put your money on the greased back metrosexual running Cali these days,

Image result for gavin newsomDoes Gavin remind anyone else of Mitt?

me: my money will continue to be on the champ.

Image result for trump boxing

Have a nice, peaceful boxing day. Savor the taste and memories of the season.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Good Tidings of Great Joy: Christmas 2019

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 


For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


from MOTUS and Raj wish all of our wonderful friends who have assembled a very special family here a very, very Merry Christmas.

We send our love to each of you and wish you a blessed Christmas day filled with the merry and the bright - For God has blessed us, everyone.

Image result for christmas tree in snow

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve Is Upon Us

I see the country is as divided over Hallmark movies as it is over politics. It’s like asking people whether your  eggnog/Tom and Jerry should be dusted with nutmeg or cinnamon.

There’s no right answer to this age old question of course, it’s a matter of choice and depends on what frame of mind you’re in.

Image result for christmas tom and jerry drinkDidn’t everyone’s Mom have this Tom and Jerry set?

So having settled that, Happy Christmas Eve to all the little elves out there! I’ll be one myself this year as I’ve been quite under the weather for the past 2 weeks with first bronchitis and now sinusitis. I’ve gotten very little done and now here we are, Christmas is upon us and I’m woefully unprepared for our annual Christmas Eve/Christmas criss-cross of the state to celebrate. So there are fewer treats this year and what gifts there are will are rather uninspired and no doubt badly wrapped.

But as everyone knows, that’s not what Christmas is about anyway.

Of course your Dem and Never-Trumper relatives think that everything, including Christmas, is about President Trump. Remember Newsweek’s top story Christmas week story back in 2017?  How Trump and the Nazis Stole Christmas To Promote White Nationalism. Things have only grown worse since then so let’s hope families either abstain from discussing politics or simply refuse to engage in bait-setting scenarios with warring members of their tribe. A truce for Mom’s sake would be nice.

So forgive me while I embark on a bit of last minute shopping in hopes of doing my bit towards “saving Christmas” while exercising my white privilege.

How dare she!?

I bid you all a Happy Christmas Eve,

Image result for christmas eve in netherlands

and 3rd day of Hanukkah.

Let’s get those presents wrapped, the razzel-berry pudding made

and let the celebration begin.

Image result for christmas eve midnight mass

Monday, December 23, 2019

MOTUS Guide To Watching Hallmark Christmas Movies

I noticed there was a discussion (again) yesterday about the Hallmark Christmas movies (HCM). Somebody mentioned there’s even a HCM Bingo card available; actually this game has been around in various forms

Image result for hallmark movie bingo 2019

almost as long as there have been Hallmark Christmas movies:

Image result for hallmark movie bingo 2019

I believe they are made by the same people who are responsible for making the movies in the first place and should not be confused with the official HCM plot generator.

If you were ever in doubt about what “formula fiction” is, this is it. As with best sellers, if demand is high people will continue to pump out formulistic  fiction in the genre for as long as there is an audience.

Now in defense of HCM, they serve a purpose. When you are world weary for any number of world-wearying reasons, they may provide some relief, but it is critical you follow directions carefully and not exceed the recommended dosage. First of all, don’t watch any that have been made after 2014; in general the older the  better as increase demand always produces sloppier product.

Of course watching any of them, even the best, requires a suspension of disbelief – in Santa, love at first sight, a person’s casual willingness to chuck a six figure job in order to follow their bliss, etc., etc.. But the best of these simple movies will take you away from your personal woes and worries for a couple of hours so there’s that.

A few that fit the bill, in no particular order: Northpole (2014), Meet the Santas (2005), Let It Snow (2013)  The Note (2007) as well as both Mrs. Miracle movies (see below).

As with any medicine it is important to pay attention to proper dosage. Overuse may result in the product losing its efficaciousness and may in fact result in having the opposite he desired effect. No more than 1 per day with a maximum of 3 in any given week. With close to 150 HCM in the can there’s bound to be a lot of crap.

For example, I broke my own first rule and watched The Mistletoe Promise (2016) while I was in the throes of bronchitis last week.

Image result for where is setting for the mistletoe promise film

Synopsis: 2 people hate Christmas - one hates her ex, the other needs to appear to be an upstanding citizen with prospects for a wife and family in order to make partner in his firm - hook up to pose as a couple for the corporate Christmas party. Naturally they fall in love. The best part? Towards the end, where everything appears to be falling apart before it all comes together the girl (Jaime King) is walking down the street of an unnamed frozen megatropolis where we see snow piled up on the streets and sidewalks. As the camera pulls out for a long shot we see all the trees on the street…fully leafed out. Yikes! Somebody contact the continuity manager!

Apparently this isn’t the only HCM shot during the summer in British Columbia to have this problem: this is from The Mistletoe Inn (2017) maybe it’s just a mistletoe problem:

Image result for where is setting for the mistletoe promise film

I guess we’re to believe those are evergreen trees

Added bonus for the Mistletoe Promise: the male lead, Luke MacFarlane, is openly gay so technically this counts as Hallmark’s first gay romance.

My personal favorite HCM is Call Me Mrs. Miracle (2010)

Image result for first hallmark mrs miracle christmas movie

one of several HCM based on  Debbie Macomber Christmas books. I note that the movie was originally titled Miracle in Manhattan  but later changed apparently to confuse people who enjoyed Hallmark’s 2009 offering called simply Mrs. Miraclewhich I’ve not seen as it’s never popped up when I was looking for something to watch. It gets high marks from viewers, if that means anything, and both of the movies feature the late, great Doris Roberts as Mrs. Miracle whose presence makes anything worth watching.

So there you have it, my rules and reviews; they aren’t great but sometimes you just need decent. Just be selective and judicious and enjoy yourself a merry little HCM this year.