Monday, January 23, 2017

Huge women's march

I watched much of it on the NYT website. Perhaps Renée (Washington), Lisa (Washington), Ellen (New York) and others can help me out, but here are the best signs I saw:

• Fight like a girl
• Make love not wall (Paris, France)
• Resistance is fertile (Kolkata, India)
• Respect existence or expect resistance
• Keep the mitts off the lady bits
• Make America think again (Florence, Italy)
• Don't forget to set your clocks back 300 years
• No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here (Berlin, Germany)
• Keep calm and smash fascism (Helsinki, Finland)
• Hasta la vista sociedad machista (San Jose, Costa Rica)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reasons to Look Forward to 2017

Things are looking pretty bleak these days, no?  Trump's election, Brexit. the Orlando shooting, the tragedy of Aleppo, global warming, and the collapse of Venezuela.  It’s been a rough year.  But, before you decide that the world  is going to hell in a handcart, think again.  On New Years eve, retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield laid out a series of tweets identifying 46 positive things that have happened in the last year -- some of them quite spectacular, like halving the number of veterans in the US who are homeless in the past 5 years, with a nearly 20% drop in 2016, or having the fewest per capita deaths in aviation of any year on record, or India planting 50 million trees in a single day.  And many of them I knew nothing about.  He concludes with "There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last."  See Looking Up (You'll need to keep hitting the "Show More" button to read them all.)

Hadfield is not the only one looking up these days.  Swedish writer Johan Norberg argues in his new book Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future that the doom and gloom forecast is not just incorrect, but is directly the opposite of what is actually happening in the world.  See Why 2016 Is Actually the Best Time in All of History to Be Alive; also Better and better.   Norberg says that we misperceive what is happening in the globe because of the unrelenting parade of negative news stories promoted in the media -- if it bleeds it leads -- and we have been duped into believing the worst.  Norberg says that the problem with advocating that "everything is going downhill" is that this message is exactly what feeds populist politics like Trump and Brexit.  The world is in turmoil and we must circle the wagons.  I also worry that all this talk of impending catastrophe will discourage people laboring in the field improving the world, since its all pointless, and the doom prediction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And, by the way, other remarkable things are happening.  As I discussed with Lainie at our New Years Eve gathering, the costs of renewable energy sources are steadily dropping and will soon undercut the cost of fossil fuels.  Consequently, as a matter of economics, renewables will end up being the preferred choice.  Renewables are already cheaper than coal, and wind energy (with tax credits) narrowly beats out natural gas.  There is every reason to believe that the cost of renewables will continue to drop.  Trump Can't Stop the Energy RevolutionFossil fuels are dead – the rest is just detailWind and solar energy to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2018 People are worried Trump will stop climate progress. The numbers suggest he can’t.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced that, for the first time in known history, less than 10 percent of the global population now lives in extreme poverty (i.e., earning less than $1.25 a day).  According to the The Economist, "Between 1990 and 2010, [the number of people in extreme poverty] fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.  Towards the end of poverty.  The UN has targeted 2030 as the year that we eliminate all extreme poverty in the world.  Here's the progress so far:

More people than ever are being fed around the world.  Famine deaths are increasingly rare and the proportion of the world’s population that is undernourished slipped from 19 percent to 11 percent between 1990 and 2015.  Add to that the fact that global child mortality from all causes has more than halved since 1990. That means 6.7 million fewer kids under the age of five are dying each year compared to 1990.  Worldwide life expectancy is also shooting up:  


Likewise, the world's children are becoming better educated.  We've seen the lowest-ever proportion of kids out of primary school according to the UN—less than one in 10. The number of kids out of school has fallen from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015. Consequently, literacy is rising.  Almost 90% of the world's population can now read:

And girls are not being left out of education:



And finally, if you are worried about overpopulation, fertility rates are dropping.  Go forth and multiply a lot less.

From where I stand, the future's looking mighty good.



The latest medical science advance astounds and grounds

Friday, January 13, 2017

Practical Benefits of Philosophy - technology edition

A number of years ago Myk presented the “Practical Benefits of Philosophy” in which he compared psychologist Carol Dweck’s ideas about growth and fixed mindsets to the philosophies of existentialism and essentialism. We had some fun (i.e. worthwhile) discussions on the topic (in my humble opinion). In spite of the fact that many family members support the study of philosophy as important to providing practical benefits in life, many others, like much of the world, see philosophy as a waste of time at best, and word manipulation at worst. Well, we all have our predilections and proper experiences. I’d like to give a totally different example of the “Practical Benefits of Philosophy”.

Unfortunately, it involves the world of programming, a world no one who reads this blog has any interest (unless big Dave gets some time off from work and chasing after kids to read).

Apple Corp. created a new, very well received language a few years ago called Swift. It was created by a very intelligent person named Chris Lattner. Mr. Lattner, as a graduate student, designed LLVM (Low Level Virtual Machine), an innovative infrastructure for optimizing compilers. A compiler is code that creates machine code from the code programmers write in. Practically all languages now use Lattner’s LLVM to complie code. 

Anyway, he was hired by Apple, did fantastic work with LLVM and other creations which form the core of Apple’s development environment. Then he created the new language Swift. Lattner announced a few days ago he is leaving Apple for a new challenge at Tesla. The person taking over Lattner’s responsibiilties at Apple and head of the Swift language is Ted Kremenek. Lattner admits that for some time now Kremenek has been more or less running the show, so it will be a smooth transition. 

Ted Kremenek has a doctorate in Philosophy from Stanford.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Word Play Aloud (Sound and Meaning)

"Wind the wrap around the wound to ward off the wind, and it will wind up well." So he wound the wrap around the wound, and it wound up well.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Updating Ericsson, and Whatever Happened to Dan McLaughlin?

Some years ago I posted a few remarks about K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University:  Ericsson Put to the Test and Practical Benefits of Philosophy:    4. The Question.  Ericsson caused a bit of a stir when he announced that inborn talent had almost nothing to do with determining one's peak level of performance in just about anything.  “The traditional view of talent, which concludes that successful individuals have special innate abilities and basic capacities, is not consistent with the reviewed evidence," he says.  Rather, "[t]he differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance."

Ericsson also maintained that not just any kind of effort produces expert performance; rather, you must apply yourself to what Ericsson calls "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is long-term effort specifically focused on improving your performance, that is, it is designed to "stretch[] yourself beyond what you can currently do,” provides feedback on results from an expert and involves high levels of repetition.  

Ericsson then makes the bold claim that 10,000 hours of this sort of deliberate practice will make anyone an expert in any field.


Which brings us to Dan McLaughlin and The Dan Plan.  Dan wanted to test Ericsson's proposition.  He took an activity that he had never done before -- golf -- and proceeded to vigorously follow Ericsson's deliberate practice strategy.  His plan was to log 30-plus hours a week until he hit the magic 10,000 hour milestone by October of 2016.   His ultimate goal was to obtain a PGA TOUR card.


In the meantime, other psychologists have challenged Ericsson's theory.  Mostly, they argue that the interplay between talent and effort is far more complex than Ericsson asserts.  Zach Hambrick worked with Ericsson as a graduate student at Florida State in 1996.  He and Ericsson grew close; Hambrick became an admirer.  “It was fantastic. Wonderful, inspiring conversations,” Hambrick recalls.  So, when Hambrick left Florida State, he continued the research into the effects of practice verses talent. 
 
Only, his research showed that talent not only counted, it counted a lot.  Practice still accounted for differences in performance, but innate talent counted more.  For example, pianists with better working memory -- a heritable trait -- were better at sight reading, and increased practice did not alter the effect.  Other studies, however, have shown that practice and effort can still make a sizable difference, along with talent.  Vanderbilt University has been conducting a longitudinal study of students who, at the age of thirteen, scored in the top one per cent of mathematical-reasoning ability.  So far, the study has revealed that, while many of the gifted students have excelled in academic accomplishment, patents, publications and organizational leadership, others have ended up with achievements indistinguishable from their less talented 13-year-old peers.  It seems that genes set the upper limit of performance, but without practice and effort, you'll never get there.  For all the details, see the New Yorker article PRACTICE DOESN’T MAKE PERFECT. And here, Hambrick weighs in by way of a Scientific American article. Is Innate Talent a Myth?

For an answer to Jim's question posed to Ericsson himself about whether the passion to work hard is something inherited or whether it can be 
developed by effort and resolve, the New Yorker article said this:

As it turns out, though, even work ethic may be heritable. Hambrick has recently published a study on the heritability of practice, using eight hundred pairs of twins. “Practice is actually heritable. There have now been two reports of this—ours, and one using ten thousand twins. And practice is substantially heritable.”
So, that leaves the question, whatever happened to Dan McLaughlin?  That, I discovered is a bit of a mystery.  Initially, I found no internet news articles whatsoever on Dan's progress to date.  So, I decided to go directly to his website, The Dan Plan. Ominously, his blog ends abruptly on November 23, 2015. No less mysteriously, Dan's "Countdown to 10,000!" page ends without warning or explanation at the week of April 27 to May 2, 2015.  The Dan Plan Countdown.  And then, after much searching, I found this obscure article, Post Mortem on the Dan Plan, that said that Dan has abandoned the plan and moved on to selling artisanal sodas in Portland, Oregon.  I wasn't sure about the reliability of this website, but I tracked down another article about the soda company where Dan is supposed to be working and, sure enough, his name and picture are right there. Bubble Rap: Talking Artisanal Soda with Portland Soda Works. 

If you believe the "Post Mortem" article, Dan's apparent failure was due to his abandonment of the Ericsson deliberate practice regimen.  From his blog, however, it looks like Dan was sidelined by chronic back pain and the fact that he was running out of money.   In any event, I don't think Ericsson will be citing McLaughlin's experiment in any of his upcoming papers.

Incidentally, as the New Yorker article points out, Ericsson has not budged from his initial thesis, except to concede that inherited traits of body size and height may affect performance.  (He has also admitted that starting your deliberate practice late in life may also limit performance.)  He told the author of the New Yorker article, “I have no problem conceptually with this idea of genetic differences, but nothing I’ve seen has convinced me this is actually the case. There’s compelling evidence that if it’s length of bones, that cannot be explained by training. We know you can’t influence diameter of bones. But that’s really it.”

One last personal point.  There may well be some ultimate genetic barrier for each of us in any given skill, but how relevant is it?  There is also probably also some absolute maximum speed human beings as a species can run set by our genes, but the mile record keeps steadily dropping.   So, whatever it is, we haven't reached it yet.


My guess is that individuals likewise rarely if ever reach their personal genetic limit that couldn't be improved upon at least somewhat.  I used  to work with a very fine attorney who said that he had done nothing in his career -- write a brief, deliver an argument, conduct a cross examination, you name it -- that he couldn't have done better.  So, it seems to me, that mostly the barriers we encounter are not genetic ones but those that result from a lack of effort and focus.  At least, that's how I experience it.  Of course, if our willingness to work is genetically determined, we have a built in excuse. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

QUIZ- What 'It's a Wonderful Life' character are you?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Quiz

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Entropy—the sins of society passed down to science

Arthur Eddington*, physicist (mainly astrophysics), mathematician, philosopher of science, said,
If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
The second law of thermal dynamics, a forbidding phrase to say the least, is better known to this world as entropy, making “collapses in deepest humiliation” even more appropriate. For that is how the world views entropy—the relentless but inexorable flow from order to chaos, the slow but steady process of energy dissipation, and the inevitability of final collapse. We believe the simple truth that entropy forces us to accept the dire sense that, in the long run, everything winds down to dissolution, decay, and doom.
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

But, hey, that’s the law. Just look around. Hot pans cool down. Raging rivers flow to calm oceans, our winter fuel bills soar as we practically feel the heat dissipate through entropic cracks, stars burn out, windows break sending useful order into hopelessly scattered fragments of chaos, but never the reverse.

Of course, we also see pounding rain and swirling wind arise out of calm oceans and skies, cold matter collapse into itself igniting violent explosions, exotically detailed flowers spring from inert, sluggish mud, trees spread delicate leaves in greater number than those that fell chaotically the year before, or the frantic use of fossil fuels which have been slowly and steadily converging over the millenniums.

What’s happening? Isn’t there also the law of the conservation of energy? Aren’t there a lot of contradictions here? Well, I’m a big believer in the law of contradictions (which I hope, some day, to formulate), but, as you might suspect, when people begin to weigh dissolution, decay, and doom against entropy, a lot of crazy facts and beliefs spew forth. And it turns out that just about everything we think we know about entropy is wrong. It’s almost as if thinking about entropy has dissipated our brains to listless mush. There is so much wrong with our notions of entropy, that it may be the poster child for the creeping mistrust of science.

Entropy is, indeed, fairly simple and useful, but it may be more helpful to first report its misconceptions. I will quote extensively from Frank L. Lambert, Professor Emeritus (Chemistry), Occidental College from an article "Entropy is simple — If We Avoid the Briar Patches!".

•Well meaning muddle
Unfortunately, the ideas of entropy and the second law have been almost hopelessly muddled by well-meaning but scientifically naïve philosophers and writers of both fiction and non-fiction.
•Information Entropy
An additional source of confusion to anyone outside of chemistry or physics is due to brilliant but thoughtless mathematicians. They decided that it would be amusing to name a very important new mathematical function communication "entropy" because "no one knows what [thermodynamic] entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage". (That quote is of John von Neumann speaking to Claude Shannon (Sci. Am. 1971 , 225 , 180.) For the past half-century this has turned out to be a cruel practical joke imposed on generations of scientists and non-scientists because many authors have completely mixed up information "entropy" and thermodynamic entropy. They are not the same!
•Entropy is NOT deterministic
When we open the oven door and heat dissipates, it does so, not in a required sense, but because it is more probable. Air molecules are constantly moving. When the oven door opens, it’s just more probable that some move out of the oven into the room. Consider 3 distinct air molecules on a 2x2 chess board. There are only 24 different possible combinations of positions for the molecules in that small space.


If we increase the size of the chess board to 4x4, the different possible combinations of positions rise dramatically. By my count, 14*14*14 or 2744. 


Even when only slightly increasing 2-dimensional space, it is extremely unlikely (less than 1%) you would find the 3 molecules in one of the 24 original configurations. That is why you will never find the hot air molecules remaining confined to the oven when the door is opened. It is just so unlikely in that bigger space to the point of “will never happen”.

•Isolated Systems
Most misleading to understanding entropy is when it is discussed in isolated systems. These theoretical systems are not only useless to a beginner but what happens in them can profoundly confuse anyone trying to understand entropy and the second law in the real world. We humans live in an open system of earth, sun, and outer space. We encounter the second law and entropy within that open system. Therefore, the energy-entropy relationships that are useful for us to examine are in that real system.
•Entropy is NOT disorder!
This confusion about disorder and entropy comes from an 1898 statement by a brilliant theoretical physicist whose mathematical contributions to thermodynamics and entropy are still totally valid. However, his attempt to interpret entropy in simple language was incorrect because only after his death in 1906 came an understanding of molecular behavior. Order/disorder became increasingly obsolete to apply to entropy and the second law when the existence of quantized energy levels in physics and chemistry was generally accepted after the mid-1920s.
Although order/disorder is still present in some elementary chemistry texts as a gimmick for guessing about entropy changes (and useful to experts in some areas of thermodynamics), it is both misleading and an anachronism for beginners in chemistry. It has been deleted from most first-year university chemistry textbooks in the US.
Now that we have cleared the air, we can say what entropy is.
The second law of thermodynamics says that energy of all kinds in our material world disperses or spreads out if it is not hindered from doing so. Entropy is the quantitative measure of that kind of spontaneous process: how much energy has flowed from being localized to becoming more widely spread out (at a specific temperature).
It is the measure of hot pans cooling—how much energy is being transferred. It is a measure of cream circulating in coffee—how widely molecules disperse. Notice that included in the definition is the phrase “if it is not hindered from doing so”. That is why the molecules in our bodies don’t disperse or why our carbon atoms don’t explode when exposed to the air. Without our second law of thermodynamics and its measure, entropy, life could not count on a steady flow of energy and, indeed, all would be chaos.


*Note that Eddington is often, apparently incorrectly, cited to have said, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” There is no record of him ever writing that. Myk correctly, cites J. B. S. Haldane for having said, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

Are we entering a post-literate age?

Scientists tell us that the human brain evolved for speech but not for writing.  To read and write, we had to borrow from other parts of the brain designed for the recognition of faces and objects.  And it was something we had to work at and learn.  In the old oral world, which lasted 10's of thousands of years, knowledge existed only in the present tense between just a few people.  Nothing could ever be confirmed or checked; once information was conveyed, it had to be repeated to be remembered; once forgotten, it disappeared forever.  And, you couldn't really review or study oral communications. Spoken nuanced, complex thoughts were hard to follow or remember.  So, you had to keep it simple and brief, and you repeated things often. 

Are we returning to the pre-literate world?  What are Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other platforms but the means of expressing ideas that are pithy, clear, memorable and repeatable, like our pre-literate ancestors. 

 
The great works of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey began as oral tradition.  They were only written down later.  Consequently, the language was formulaic so that it could be remembered.  Thus, for Homer it's never just Achilles, but the swift-footed Achilles. It's always Hector, breaker of horses; bright-eyed Athena; Agamemnon, lord of men; the wily Odysseus.  Dawn doesn’t appear, it’s always "rosy-fingered" Dawn that appears.


As evidence of our return to a pre-literate age we have president-elect Trump.  For Trump, like Homer, it was never Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton or others, but “Lyin’ Ted," “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary, ” “Crazy Bernie Sanders” and “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”


No doubt Homer would feel right at home.


For further reading:  Donald Trump, the First President of Our Post-Literate Age

Monday, November 21, 2016

Another Scientific Impossibility

British inventor Roger Shawyer proposed the EM Drive or Electromagnetic Drive in 1999. It was the best way to travel to Mars and other space destinations, except for one thing—it broke Newton's Third Law of Thermodynamics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

NASA has finally peer reviewed the EM Drive and, hokey smokes, it works! Leave it to science to continually defy its own laws to reinvent itself. More evidence that the universe is "stranger than we can imagine."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

American Muslims Respond Swiftly to Trump's Call to Report Problems

In the second presidential debate, Donald Trump called on all Muslims to “report when they see something going on.”  “Muslims have to report the problems when they see them,” he said. “And, you know, there’s always a reason for everything. If they don’t do that, it’s a very difficult situation for our country.”

American Muslims immediately swung into action and did their patriotic duty.  Even before the debate ended, the reports started pouring in:


I'm a Muslim, and I would like to report a crazy man threatening a woman on a stage in Missouri.  ‪#debate
        

I wanna report a guy who is constantly sniffing and doesn't know what he is talking about ‪#MuslimsReportStuff ‪#debate@chaudary_zainab


And Muslims continued to report problems when they saw them:


  
I did laundry this morning but still haven't put it away


I think my sister drank orange juice straight out of the carton, will continue to investigate

#MuslimsReportStuff Gremlins 2 is the rare sequel that completely deconstructs the franchise. For my money, it's better than the first.

#MuslimsReportStuff My dad is taking a nap, I'll keep on watching him as Trump ordered.

#muslimsreportstuff My mother uses store-bought filo pastry for her samoosas every single year.

My brother leaves his wet towel on the floor everyday. FBI pls deal with this #MuslimsReportStuff


Muslims, keep up the good work!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Francis Featured

Technique, tools, touch, vision, speed, willingness to win, creates opportunities for others, strong shot…some people have it all.

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's True! The system is rigged.

I guess the system really is rigged.  At least for those in the real estate business.






Friday, September 30, 2016

On JASTA

It is interesting that this Congress seems to be able to overcome partisanship only when there's opportunity to strike a self-righteous pose.  Despite warnings from the CIA director and others, CIA Director Calls 9/11 Legislation 'Badly Misguided'An Obama Veto Worth Backing, Congress has overridden Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (Jasta) which creates a new exception to foreign sovereign immunity -- to permit suits against countries for their possible involvement in acts of domestic terrorism.  The purported purpose of the bill was to give the 9/11 victims -- and their lawyers -- the ability to sue Saudi Arabia.

Foreign sovereign immunity exists for a reason:  sovereign immunity avoids the potential adverse political consequences from private lawsuits against foreign governments.  As Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted, when you start doing away with sovereign immunity, “you end up exporting your foreign policy to trial lawyers.”  International affairs are complicated enough without a lot of private citizens crossing swords with foreign governments.

There are already some exceptions to sovereign immunity -- claims involving commercial transactions  and claims against countries that have been officially designated as “state sponsors of terrorism” by the American government (Saudi Arabia is not one).  The new exception allows civil lawsuits against any sovereign nations that “knowingly or recklessly contribute material support or resources, directly or indirectly, to persons or organizations that pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism…” regardless of any designation that it is a "state sponsor of terrorism."

What reveals the lack of seriousness in the override is that Congress in the same week approved a major arms deal to Saudi Arabia.  Senate Votes to Advance $1.15 Billion Saudi Arms Deal.   If the Senate really believed that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9/11 attacks, why is it selling the Saudis over a billion dollars in arms?

To me, Jasta is a lot of nonsense.  First, the 9/11 victims have been compensated.  More Than $38 Billion Paid to 9/11 Victims.  So, this isn't really about compensation.

Beyond that, the law represents a rather sad reprisal to a particularly heinous crime.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed and Japan killed some 2400 Americans, Congress didn't swing into action and decide to teach Japan a lesson by allowing the Pearl Harbor victims to sue the Japanese government.  It declared war on Japan and pursued that war until there was total victory.  If Congress really believed that Saudi Arabia was behind a terrorist act that claimed more lives than the Pearl Harbor attack, Riyadh would have been leveled long ago.

The Congressional override is clearly just a lot posturing before an election in an attempt to garner a few more votes.  It does nothing to further American interests, and does much to harm them.  Already Congress is having buyer's remorse.  The Runaway 9/11 Bill That Congress Refused to Stop.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Summer Movie Report 2016

Here is my summer movie report for this year.  Sue and I saw seven official summer movies. Without giving too much away, I give my basic reactions.   Included are the Metacritic ratings in parentheses.

Love & Friendship (87)  Whit Stillman, known for his semiautobiographical triad Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, returns to his Jane Austen obsession (Metropolitan being inspired by Jane Austen.)  – this time with the re-telling a little-known Austen short story.  The critics loved this movie, and I can’t help but feel that I should have liked it more.  But in my dotage I found the plot a bit hard to follow and couldn’t quite keep the myriad characters straight.  Suggestion:  take notes.  Kate Beckinsale, however, is marvelous and astonishingly attractive at age 43.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (80)  For us, this wins as the flat-out most entertaining movie of the summer.   I’m going out on a limb here, but this movie may be Sam Neill’s finest hour (yes, and that includes Jurassic Park).  The movie could also double as a travelogue for New Zealand.

Cafe Society (64)  Here is more Woody Allen nostalgia.  The reviews were mixed on this one but, for Sue and me, it was also way up there in the sheer entertainment category.  It wasn’t as good as recent Allen offerings Midnight in Paris or Blue Jasmine, but still well worth watching.   With a funny Steve Carell, Twilight star Kristen Stewart, and Jesse Eisenberg as Woody Allen’s stand-in.

Captain Fantastic (72)  I’m of two minds about this movie. I think that you’re supposed to really admire the lead character for his totally principled approach to his life, but he was also really annoying and obnoxiously self-righteous.  So, I didn’t know what to think of him – perhaps that was the point.  But, for you Aragorn groupies, Viggo Mortensen, the lead, turns in a superb performance. 

Indignation (79)  Adam Chandler of the Atlantic Monthly once wrote an article entitled, “Stop Making Film Adaptations of Philip Roth Novels.”  Of course, moviemakers continue to ignore this demand.  (I think some six have been made so far.)  Indignation is the latest effort.  It may not fully capture Roth but it was still a pretty good movie – one of those movies that continues to haunt you days after you’ve left the theater.  Never did the 50’s seem so strange.

Don’t Think Twice (83)  We really enjoyed this movie.  It joins Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Café Society as our favorites of the summer.  Maybe all you need to know about this movie is who is involved.  Comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote and directed the movie, and is in the cast.  Also in the cast is comedian Keegan-Michael Key of the Comedy Central series Key & Peele.   And, I should mention co-star Gillian Jacobs, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon (class of 2000)(Did anybody know her?  James, Ali, Theresa, Pete?).  Finally, one of the producers is Ira Glass (Birbiglia has made a number of appearances on This American Life).

Florence Foster Jenkins (71)  Sue, I think, liked this movie more than I did.  And, it’s a rather amazing true story.  Jenkins was an item in the 30’s and 40’s in New York City.  So, it’s the sort of thing I would have liked to ask Mom or Dad about.  My problem was that I didn’t see why I should care about this person.  Sue, however, saw something honorable in Jenkins.  In any event, we agree that Meryl Streep is as accomplished as ever, and Hugh Grant gives a particularly elegant performance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Related Peanuts

To go with Myk's Peanut post, I'll offer a 'trending' video:



I put 'trending' in quotes since, despite 6 million current views, this is what generally all contemplative people have been asking for thousands of years. Although there are countless books and articles, both fiction and non-fiction, written on this subject (some of which Mr. Fry and others may find interesting, informative and/or consoling), it is still a quandary. Maybe I should have placed a spoiler alert before the last sentence.

Art Imitates Life

I can't tell you how many times I've had this same sort of conversation.