Dave's Journal, Dec 2017
Diggin' Up Bones
At Chrissy's & Mike's
Maria, Joe, Joanne, Ferruccio, Dominique, Chris, Deb and I descended upon Chris & Mike yesterday. We hadn't been all together in a long while, so lots to talk about (and the good thing is that I *heard* all of it !!).
Did not make many pictures, but here are the 3 I got ....
Deb Made Our Fireplace All Christmasy
Newport Mansions 2017 Redux
Our 2nd trip this year. Some of the mansions have Christmas decorations up and we had 2 tickets left over from the summer trip.
Chilly, rainy day - no scenic strolls 'long the ocean's cliffs today.
As always, the mind wobbles at the wealth and opulence poured in these "summer cottages" (!), which is litterally what they were.
Turns out that there were many more of these at one time, and most were demolished or burned down, as they became "white elephants" for the owners. I picked up a book describing each of the demolished homes - interesting read. The Newport Preservation Society started purchasing some of the mansions starting in the 1940's, and these are now tourist destinations.
Remember .... these were literally "summer cottages" !
Tax Cuts, Part 1
I always ask people this question, and I never get a straight, well-informed answer. The question is:
"Taxes are your government's income. Here is a chart of what the government spends that income on. You want to cut taxes by 10%? Tell me what 10% of expenses you want to cut to match the proposed cuts in income. (If you don't cut 10% off expenses, the tax cuts will drive up the national debt.)".
Tax Cuts, Part 2
"Our new tax plan will reduce taxes on the average family by $1,000."
Reality: The new tax plan will cut one wealthy family's taxes by $10,000, and not reduce taxes by one penny on 9 middle class families. So .... the "average" family tax reduction is $1,000 (which is simply $10,000 / 10) but the reality is that only the one wealthy family will get a tax cut.
"The new tax plan results in a tax reduction of $5,000 averaged across all income groups"
Reality: Break the voters into 2 groups - the top 1% incomers and the bottom 99%.
The top 1% income group gets a tax reduction of $10,000. The bottom 99% group gets a tax reduction of ZERO. Average reduction of the 2 groups? - $5000.
Lesson: Read carefully, think more and trust no one.
Rummaging through old books this morning, I was reminded of some favorite lines from the work of John Donne (1624?):
No man is an island ...... every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the mainland.
If a rock be washed away by the sea, all of Europe is then the less, as much as if a mountain were washed away ...... any man's death diminishes me, because I am a part of mankind,
and so ..... never send to ask for whom the bell tolls ...... it tolls for thee.
?? Saw this on a vending machine ??
Does "ART" have to be this complicated?
A favorite topic of mine.
Here is "Composition VIII", by W. Kandinsky (1923).
Honestly, I like looking a it. I like the colors, the lines, the areas, the balance and the unbalance. I have no idea what it "means" or if it is supposed to look like something. I just like looking at it, and I don't try to explain that to myself.
On the other hand, here is what the experts see when they look at it ....
Composition VIII is a composition rich in confident, driving lines that describe an internal world of order and ambition. Diverging wildly from the apocalyptic iconography of Composition VII which, in many ways foresaw the abstract horror of the First World War, Kandinsky utilises a vastly different palette of colors to evoke the prevailing mood of his times in both the public and private realm. Further stressing his belief that an emotional response is superior to a perceptual one, Kandinsky uses Composition VIII to articulate his unique visual lexicon. Almost three decades previously, in 1896, the artist witnessed a performance of Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bolshoi and understood the potential for abstract compositions to trigger moods, conjure images, and follow a leitmotif. When experiencing Composition VIII side-by-side with a piece of modernist music, one is given the startling impression of witnessing a visual reproduction of the structural elements heard.
Yeh, well, okay ..... I just like looking at it.
I'm trying, I'm trying ...
... to get into the holiday spirit. Last few days I watched some classic Christmas animations. I'm working into the deeper stuff (It Happened on 5th Ave., Miracle on 34th St. etc etc etc) day by day.
You can see that I am into the spirit here .... look, I have a Christmas tree and a big smiley face (though I should have combed my hair, but this was a snapshot event).
Scrooge, Asking if He May Come to Dinner
Santa made an early delivery to me - a custom ordered hat for snowblowing, from our Virginia-based crafty person & daughter who has an Etsy page here:
Cozy warm, hard not to wear it all the time !
Other than that, we are just closing in on Christmas. I'm mentally preparing for several parties we're going to in the next 10 days. Holidays are stressful. The concept is nice, but the reality is stressful. I'm keeping amused with various holiday movies, in the quiet moments.
After visiting the dentist today, and watching him work on my denture, I've decided that I need an epoxy gun of my own. (I already have the same Dremel tool he uses.) Checking online, there are hundreds of designs !
He was amused that I had (at home) previously grinded off the metal clips on the denture. "They hurt, and it was an easy fix", I said. He got a laugh out of that and told me some funny stories of his own. Like his buddy who, after 8 years of education, got out of dentistry because he found out he didn't like dealing with people !! Or the story about flavored novacaine for times when it squirts into the patients' mouth.
A long time ago ...... far, far away ......
Santa, 2017 .... He's on His Way !
(That's Santa on the right. Don't know who the elf on the left is.)
Natalie's (tacky sweater) Christmas Party
The bees knees .... jacked my cell phone into my computer speakers. Better than any other phone-hearing gizmo that I have tried !! It's great.
"Study this", they say,"before seeing The Last Jedi." They say.
(Or print it out and bring a copy with you.)
Hey .... where is Jyn Erso ???
I liked it. Gave it a tentative 7/10, but I need to see it with subtitles before I lock in that rating. I apparently missed some good and awful dialog at the theater.
To be sure there were some weak moments (Laura Dern's "inspirational" speech) and silly parts (Rey's Jedi training took a whole 2 minutes!!?), but nothing that threw me off the train. There were some scenes I would have clipped a bit, and some inconsistencies (the sun moved around from shot to shot when Luke is sitting on the mountai top.)
I did not pick up on the "excessive Disney" influence that was mentioned by internet critics. I have the feeling that a few short scenes turned some people off completely from liking the film.
A favorite quote (the director's message to his millenial audience?) :
Kylo Ren, spoken to Rey:
"..... let the past die. Kill it, if you have to".
My favorite character: Benicio Del Toro ("DJ"). He had all of 60 seconds screen time, but I liked his acting, and his face is very expressive.
Favorite concept: Rey and Kylo Ren communicated physically across space. Not just telepathically, or spiritually, but physically.
I will buy the DVD after the price comes down.
The New Tax Deal
Voters hate to think for themselves (that's why there are political parties, biased "news" channels, and misinformed Facebook comments - so you can skip the actual thinking process), and voters especially hate to think about #numbers#. Nevertheless, these are the numbers for the new tax deal that is becoming the law in the next day or so.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor.
Example: If your married-filing-jointly income is $75,000 - $100,000, in 2019 you will see a tax decrease of 1.4% (the dark blue bars on the graph). This will then be reduced each year, so that by 2027 you will see no tax decrease at all (the light blue bars on the graph).
If your income is below $75,000 (most retired folks?) you will eventually see a permanent tax increase(again, the light blue bars on the graph). Lots of under-$75,000-income retired people haven't figured this out yet ! ?
On the other hand .... If your income is above $100,000 you will forever see a permanent tax decrease.
The median (2016) annual income in the US was $59039. The irony here is that under the new tax plan, the lower 50% of the population will be paying for the tax decreases given to the top 50% of the population.
Note the next to the last item in the footnote list - that is how the tax bill got enough votes to pass in Congress. That footnote will slowly choke Obamacare to death; because of that footnote in the tax bill, the expense of health insurance under Obamacare will rise continually through the years, which will force voters to kill it altogether, as time goes by.
Trust no one.
Jim and I go back 30 years. He still works at GE, though the happy ending is in sight. We disagree on politics, but are very civil about it. No bad feelings, no screaming .... just sipping his version of sangria and complaining about the population of morons working in Washington.
They have two 15 pound cats - make ours look downright skeletal !!
I read The New Yorker like it's homework, like something I must do (because I am paying for it). Have been doing this since probably 1963. Every week.
I try but I cannot keep up, and sometimes skip articles the way I used to skip homework, then feel both guilty and worried on the train ride into school the next day.
I always have the feeling that I'm dealing with people a lot smarter than I am, because we all (I think) equate good writing with higher intelligence (they are really not the same thing).
And I wrestle with their stupid website every month. They are so paranoid about people "breaking in" that my password needs to be changed constantly. But I do enjoy sending them a caustic email when this happens, using all the writing skills I've learned from reading them for, what? .... 55 years!?
I'd often think to cancel, but that would leave me without bragging rights ("I read in the New Yorker that ......") and "first world" complaining rights (" I just can't keep up with the New Yorker").
I bring this up because I was just reading and started skipping articles again and decide to put my sins down in writing here in my journal.
Now I think I'll watch TV.
This quote flashes into my head every now and then. Getting into the Christmas / holiday spirit, the quote seems very "appropriate", thinking of compassion, people, conflict, generosity, haves and have-nots, good fortune, bad luck, being a lucky American, being a desperate 3rd world family, sharing, not sharing, giving, taking, not giving, not taking.
What if God shows up tomorrow?
Refugees - 2017 Years Ago
Some things never change.
Christmas Day was Bad Weather -
Lots of Wind, Lots of Snow
Santa brought me a Bob Ross T-shirt .....
It's Over! Let's Chill Out
Good Week to Catch Up on My Reading !
Artist Jeff Koons has contracted with fashion guy Louis Vuitton to make ladies' purses with art on them. You won't find any of this stuff in Walmart, though .....
When it was pointed out that given the prices for the collection, which range from $585 for a key chain to $4,000 for the large carryall, with most hovering between $1,000 and $3,000, it wasn't exactly every person gear, he said, "Well, they can walk by the windows of Louis Vuitton and enjoy them."
(Besides, everything is relative. Mr. Koons has the record for price at auction for a work by a living artist: $58.4 million in 2013 for "Balloon Dog (Orange)." Compared with that, a backpack at $3,200 is a deal.)
(And I was feeling guilty last month when I dropped $60 on a camera bag.)
Catching up on missed soap opera episodes.
Getting Ready in Times Square