Wednesday assorted links

1. “A transcriber on the Isle of Man can decipher almost anything.

2. Why don’t skateboards get any cheaper?

3. Is the Cold War game of provocative street-naming coming back?

4. Can Washington be automated?

5. The Obama portraits are in fact excellent.  Here is praise from the NYT.  Quite good is Vinson Cunningham at The New Yorker.  Mood affiliation here prevents the correct outcome, which is that Obama skeptics should be more sympathetically inclined to the portraits, which (correctly or not) raise the possibility that his was in large part a presidency of hagiography.

6. The superb Scott Sumner on cinema in 2017.


Good stuff here....Sumner likes noire stuff and on his recommendation I saw a classic old French film about prisoners escaping from the jungle where everybody dies, it was interesting.

That was an excellent list, but this one (via @adam_tooze) actually addresses 2017 films:

His 4.0 for the Louis C.K film "I Love You, Daddy" made me go back and try to find reviews of the film BEFORE the stories about his misdeeds came out. It's probably a better movie than most folks will ever give him credit for.

Can someone define mood affiliation to an idiot?

In this case, people don't like Obama so they also don't like his portrait, and maybe the broader style, even though the two should be considered separately. Tyler thinks that distinct things should be rated on their merits, not their affiliation with some other thing which you feel strongly about.

I thought the paintings were pretty good (portraits are notoriously tricky to paint because they require basic skills that some artists don’t possess).

What I liked less were the “chop the head off Whitey / kill Whitey” paintings. Very coarse and gross, and imagine the outcry if a painter depicted the decapitation of a bunch of black people?

Those were awesome, mostly for the effect they have on hypersensitive white people, and in the same way that a depiction of the Last Supper with a Black Jesus and a White Judas would be awesome.

You are definitely a different spin on the concept of "racist libertarian".

Those were awesome, mostly for the effect they have on hypersensitive white people, and in the same way that a depiction of the Last Supper with a Black Jesus and a White Judas would be awesome.

The person who accused Madonna Ciccone of 'racist aggression' for making use of a negroid image of Jesus was... bell hooks.

@Brian, well, I'm a libertarian who is irritated by racism. And by the howls of outrage elicited from... certain quarters .... whenever minority people express feelings of discontent with American society as it currently exists. So when a black person presents an overtly provocative image that is obviously designed to provoke such howls, I find it comical.

@Brian, well, I’m a libertarian who is irritated by racism. who is continually striking silly and dishonest poses about race.


Hazel Meade February 14, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I’m a libertarian who is irritated by racism.

Except when it is aimed at Whites. Then it is *awesome*! What would your response be if someone painted a picture of Emmitt Till's head in the hands of a White man?

What a bunch of snowflakes.

Dweebs this is what your wife acts like if you don't up your game.

There's so many white snowflakes around, it's beginning to look like Christmas.

@Brian, well, I’m a libertarian who is irritated by racism.

I've heard being allergic to yourself really sucks.

I've heard that too. It's a good thing that you can't really be a (consistent) libertarian, and also be a racist.

Ok, so you're not a consistent libertarian. Few are. That's ok.

Hazel - maybe you just have hatred in your heart. It happens frequently. Repent, please

"in the same way that a depiction of the Last Supper with a Black Jesus and a White Judas would be awesome."

But wouldn't you want to identify more with the Judas character?

@ Hazel,

Harrumph! True Libertarians would dislike both the racial provocateur for being hipster "edgy", and the white snowflakes for being so brittle.

Hazel Meade February 14, 2018 at 10:53 pm

It’s a good thing that you can’t really be a (consistent) libertarian, and also be a racist.

Well obviously you can. Especially if you do not define being a libertarian as being a non-racist. As your link does:

As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause.

So does it follow that if you drop the first clause (worthy of respect) and simply believe that people should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause, you are no longer a libertarian? To ask that question is to answer it. The author has simply imposed his own political correctness on the definition - a definition which is better without his personal political preferences.

(Nor, incidentally, would the mere fact that someone is a different sex justify her differential treatment.)

So apparently if you prefer to marry a woman you cannot be a libertarian either. How frightfully interesting.

But, if you do it solely on the grounds that they’re (e.g.) a Jew, or Irish, or a woman, then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals.

Question begging at best. Given that the author has made up that bit about individuals. What if you refuse to do it on grounds that are none of anyone else's business? Sounds pretty libertarian to me.

A SJW effort to co-opt the libertarian movement.

>because they require basic skills that some artists don’t possess

Anymore, at least. When doing cathedral tours, etc., I'm frequently struck by how 'artistic quality' is inversely proportional to 'age of work.'

In my country, for a white person to be scared of a "kill whitey" painting they'd have to be a fucking coward.

But the other way around, I could understand people with dark skins being a bit jumpy what with the genocide that took place here and the reduction in the absolute number of indigenous people only ending in the 1930s.

So the context is different.

I'm sure this guy is very much a "coward" in real life, much like Jesse Jackson:

"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved..."

"But the other way around, I could understand people with dark skins being a bit jumpy what with the genocide that took place here and the reduction in the absolute number of indigenous people only ending in the 1930s.


What are the “chop the head off Whitey / kill Whitey” paintings?

I completely don't get the allusion

Yes, decapitation is funny. Issis does it extremely well. Not as funny as child rape, or Blacks licking the spurred riding boots of Whites, nor as funny as Jews on metal trays slid into brick ovens.

Yes, anything goes, one just has to be anointed, and oh so snarky.

I think mood implies even less cognition. You know your friends don't like x(1) and even without much study, you default against an associated x(2).

Though Tyler was really trolling for it with "his was in large part a presidency of hagiography."

So we liked a guy who could think. Give us a break.

"So we liked a guy who could think"

Tyler said no mood affiliation...

Obviously that is the opposite. Remember calm explanations of "rationale."

By the way, what is the antonym of hagiography?

Trump has made his bed, literally, with top stories like "Trump's Longtime Lawyer Says He Paid Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket."

Tyler is an odd captain, choosing portraiture as his sea anchor, as we suffer the storms of our Celebrity President.

"By the way, what is the antonym of hagiography?"


I was looking for a word that meant something more like "praise for awfulness." Real Housewives Etc

I disagree that "honesty" is the antonym for hagiography. I just looked it up in my (shorter) OED and there was *nothing* about it pertaining to untrue or distorted biographies. Simply: it is a biography of a Saint. Whether it be fawning or demonizing, if it's about a Saint, then it is a hagiography. Unfortunately (or not) a lot of the pseudo-literati use the word to describe whitewashed bios. So, looking for an antonym for a word which is being misused it gonna be difficult - who is going to agree what the base (non)definition is? Anyway, how about "written calumny"?

Calumny :the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone's reputation; slander.

Dishonesty: deceitfulness shown in someone's character or behavior: a fraudulent or deceitful act.

In this context, hagiography is writing that tries to make someone look saintly; the "shorter OED" version is defining the term in its technical use around saints' biographies.

That is going to necessarily be distorting/dishonest unless they really are exactly as saintly as presented, which is so close to never the case as to round to never the case.

Borjigid: +1

It's actually quite hard to avoid mood-affiliation. You can't easily make your brain forget things you know (like "I don't like that guy" or "everyone I know says that picture is ugly.").

What does it mean that I liked Obama's but not Michelle's? Perhaps I'm a misogynist.

Barack is earth, Michelle is sky?

Frankly, I don't think it matters that much. Art is a conversation between other people.

Only idiots can understand mood affiliation. You can't.

I can understand mood affiliation pretty well.

Proving my point pretty well.

No, I am not.

A term Tyler employs to discredit people who disagree with him because he can't think of a specific reason why they should be wrong.

Gels with the zeitgeist, at least.

#6 Pathetic. An Asian-European fifth-columnist.

With the possible exception of “Bin-Laden street”, I think both the Americans and the Russians are right and should go ahead with the changes.

#2: I have no idea. But I want to remind everybody not to disturb children when they are skateboarding.

"2. Why don’t skateboards get any cheaper?"

Actually that's a miss Tyler for your headline. The article is asking why skateboard keep getting cheaper in real dollars.

" Why Have Skateboards Cost $50 for 30 Years?

Forty-two dollars in 1989 is the equivalent of $84 today, but somehow, give or take a few bucks, skateboards have stayed the same price, almost completely resisting inflation. While there are many potential reasons for the stagnant prices, it seems to be a rather extreme version of what economists call "price stickiness.""

Price stickiness in classic economic parlance is reserved for lack of deflation, a big bug-a-boo for 20th century economists, but your point is well made.

Indeed, it seemed obvious when I read this that the actual price is half what it was in 1989.

But, perhaps a better question would be, why should they cost less? Many things do cost less than they once did (e.g. electronics, small appliances) but others (houses, canned beans, automobiles) don't.

There are obviously lots of reasons why prices change over time; why would anyone assume that prices always go down?

BTW, this skateboard is only $10.

Or $49.99. which it is.

It was $9.99 when I created the link. Welcome to Amazon's dynamic pricing!

Yeah, the $45 in 89 sells for $30 today which makes it the same $50 today as in 89 because you round everything to the nearest $50???

In 1989 $45 was 13.5 hours Federal minimum wage, and today $30 is 3 hours California minimum wage.

In 1989, skateboarding sales and marketing costs were higher as they needed to educate potential customers.

Today, skateboards are a common commodity that all customers actually paying already understand and need little instruction, with fashion being the thing marketed.

Note that in 1989, every active part was unique except for the ball bearings which were taken from industry as one of many sizes. Today, the bearings are manufactured in such high volumes, economies of scale have made these bearings the choice for many applications when in 1989 another bearing size would probably be chosen.likewise, the wheel assembly is used for other applications, probably replacing wheels using bushings.

On the other hand, mountain bikes, and related BMX, California inventions, have gone up in price over the same time frame. While all the active components are imported from Europe and Asia, the US has invested in frame technology and in integration, plus style, and thus pushed prices up for diminishing returns. And the generic commodity bikes have maintained constant real prices by upping the value and performance.

Note, 1989 is roughly the point of doldrums for all these technologies, hobbies, sports, relative to their growth in popularity in the 70s into the 80s. By the 80s backlash was growing against all of them.

Mulp schooling! Bonus trivia: the Allied forces in WWII spent a lot of bombing runs trying to take out a ball-bearing factory I once read, under the theory that ball-bearings were a critical component. Did not work, since the factory was constantly and quickly repaired. Same for the Romanian oil fields.

1. That allied bombing might have been more successful if the bombers hadn't mostly missed the factory. Although in general allied attempts to reduce Nazi war production in WWII were not very successful..

On the other hand, bombing of oil facilities (and synthetic-fuel hydrogenation plants), although costly in lives and material, seems to have been at least moderately successful in denying fuel to the Nazi war machine. Fuel shortages made allied air superiority inevitable in the later stages of the war and that surely reduced allied casualties and shortened the war.

The difference, perhaps, is that one can move a factory inside a mountain (if necessary), but oil production is not so portable.

Sumner said this about the history of cinema:

“Once Americans were given access to their own home grown porn in the 1970s, they stopped going to see films by Godard, Bergman and Antonioni.“

Really? REALLY? We didn’t just get tired of being harangued by a warmed over Brechtian like Godard? We weren’t just bored by Bergman, a tenth as talented as Hitchcock or Welles?

Thor, I think you missed my point. Even when they saw these films, they didn't like them. They went to see them for the skin. Once that was no longer a draw, most Americans had no interest.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi (US) 3.6 The best Star Wars film since the first two. They finally found a director who is more than just a corporate clone. It still fell short of what it might have been—Mark Hamill is not a good actor and the depictions of alien planets continue to be quite unimaginative."

While I have no particular opinion on titillating European cinema, I must vigorously object to this travesty (although I will concede that you may have a point about Mark Hamil's acting).

The Last Jedi might be, at best, rated as "meh". It certainly wasn't the worst Star Wars movie, but top 3? You trippin Holmes.

WARNING - spoilers ahead

More specifically:

- It was long and felt longer
- The third trilogy is overly concerned with referencing the original to a completely absurd degree (Hoth was cool. Hoth II on salt is just lamely unoriginal)
- They killed off the wrong original cast member (don't bet the franchise on the health and well being of a bipolar recovering drug addict, no matter how generally cool and popular she may be)
- Luke's death seemed kind of dumb (hey, we don't need this guy anymore, but we left him all alone in a safe place, so let's just have him vaporize for no particular reason)
- Seriously, how dumb is the First Order? Imposing fleet chases three Resistance ships that aren't "jumping to lightspeed". How 'bout you stop clowning around and have some of those big 'ol Star Destroyers jump ahead of the resistance and cut them off?
- How useful are those giant ships if you can blow the [expletive deleted] out of a bunch of them by sacrificing one resistance cruiser?
- Also, apparently in the Star Wars universe rich people get rich by selling arms to the First Order (and, admittedly, the Resistance). Is there literally no other industry?

So how does this rate compared to the other movies?

1) Star Wars (A New Hope, Episode IV or whatever we're supposed to call it now): I'd respect arguments that The Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One belong here. But in the end, the reason we're still doing this 40 years on is that the original was freaking great.
2) The Empire Strikes Back: Reasonable people could argue this is actually a better movie than the original
3) Rogue One: Great movie in and of itself, but also highly enjoyable in the way it cast completely new light on the original story
4) Return of the Jedi: Satisfying end to the original trilogy, but not really as good as the first two films
5) The Force Awakens: Enjoyable, but overly referential to the original trilogy
6) The Last Jedi: See above
7) Revenge of the Sith: Least bad movie of the prequel trilogy
8) Attack of the Clones: Not as bad as the The Phantom Menace
9) The Phantom Menace: The Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars movies

"Seriously, how dumb is the First Order? Imposing fleet chases three Resistance ships that aren’t “jumping to light speed”."

I saw it with a novelist, a detective and three teenage boys. We all groaned repeatedly at the goofiness of this film. (I mentioned the teenagers because they are basically the target audience for this film: they aren't that discerning and like mindless action. But they ain't idiots.)

There were parts that were pretty decent, but it's obvious that the script writer/director didn't care enough to make the universe make sense or be consistent. This is pretty common for eye-candy SFish movies, I guess because the audiences will still come even when the plot and the universe doesn't make sense.

But every Star Wars movie has been like that, SF eye-candy. Every single one is full of ridiculous plot holes and inconsistencies. And that's fine. The thing is, we all love the stuff we listened to/saw/read when we were age 6-20 or so. The kids that fell in love with the original trilogy will never love the newer stuff the same way, even though the originals were just as silly. And many of those folks lash out at the new ones, because they don't make them feel like they did with the first go around. I saw the first one in 1977 like 6 times in the theater, I had the action figures, etc. No way the new ones can make me that excited even if they are better (and they are in many ways, starting obviously with the special effects)

LOL look at us gay cucks sitting around arguing about Star Wars.

@msg: my daughter's 4th grade class mocks the new film quite frequently. Although they apparently did like dusting off his shoulder

Rogue One better than Return of the Jedi? I thought Rogue One was the definition of mediocre. Sure, it was the first "edgy" Star Wars film, but it was filled with too many C-grade action movie cliches and was far too serious for its own triteness. I haven't really enjoyed any of the films outside of the original trilogy. The Disney-fied films are fun but mostly forgettable.

If you were the age you are now when the original trilogy came out you'd feel the same way about them as you do about the new ones. But you were a kid then. My dad, for instance, feels that way about the original Star Wars, which he had to take me to over and over. At least it had his favorite actor Alec Guinness in it.

My father liked the original series a hell of a lot more than I liked the prequels, despite my being 18 to him being 25 when they started coming out. And as I said above, it's not a hit with the ~9 year olds I know. Oh, and its ticket sales collapsed very quickly for a SW film. No evidence the kids loved it

Your arguments about the expectations tinted by nostalgia are right on. But for me, the biggest problem with Star Wars movies after the original trilogy were 2: Han and Leia's romance was genuinely fun, and R2 and C3PO were actually funny comic relief.

The "romance" of the prequel trilogy is why I consider Attack of the Clones the worst Star Wars movie, and the only movie since the original trilogy to have a character I found amusing at all was Rogue One, with a decent, not hilarious K2SO.

Good point Scott.

Eh - the portraits are ok - but REAL Mannerism was much more colorful than the portrait of Mrs. Obama. Those hands! They look like something from Pontormo! And the Rousseau leafy stuff - eh. I'm intrigued by the 6th finger reading -- I see what they mean, but I'd like to see a better detail.

In re: workshop stuff -- there have always been specialists. You didn't pay Rubens to paint satin - he had assistants for that. Admittedly, he probably spoke to them in a mutually understood language. On the other hand, for a really big commission the Baroque masters would paint more of the final surface than this fella seems to have done.

5. They're objectively hideous, and mood affiliation makes Obama supporters and others afraid of being branded as racist from saying what they really think.

The chair and Obama's hands are abnormally proportioned. Michelle bears little resemblance to the woman in that portrait other than both being Black females. Contrast with the near photorealistic portraits of other presidents. Even the highly abstract portrait of Kennedy has a somber essence, almost ghostlike, that neither of these artists could touch.

The artists are plainly talented, but they blew these jobs. It's nowhere near Wiley's other works which are stunning.

"Obama’s hands are abnormally proportioned"

His left hand has an extra finger too.

I don't think that was intended. It does look like that.

There's some dispute about how much work Wiley puts into his paintings. He operates a small manufactory with shop assistants. Thomas Kinkade had an operation like this too, but I believe he worked on each canvas and that the extent is roughly understood.

The portrait of Mooch is wretched. Doesn't look like her at all.

You see their other work and it's puzzling why they were selected. The trumpery around Obama is wholly inappropriate. It's also the artist's signature. As for the dame who did Mooch's most of her work is unimpressive. And, of course, neither of the Obama's sat for a portrait.

"It's puzzling why they were selected."

It doesn't puzzle me at all. Black. Incompetent. Subversive. Intentionally nonconformist. Self-aggrandizing.

Theyre the Obamas of the art world.

A grateful nation appreciates the comedy gold that the Obamas have showered upon it.

Tgat Kennedy portrait is not abstract.

I am not an art afficianado, and I struggled with the word "abstract" until I grew impatient and posted it anyway.

What is the word im looking for to describe that style? Impressionist?

The Obama portrait was good. I liked it. It looked like him... i.e. it was a portrait in the usual sense. Michelle's portrait is less than stellar, mainly because it doesn't look like her (see the picture of her standing next to the portrait: Michelle's distinctive eyebrows and cheekbones are completely missing. This is a portrait of a generic black woman, not of Michelle Obama. It's a good painting, not a good portrait.

But holy crap... I did miss that extra finger on Obama's left hand.

Damn! It is the left hand. My search continues.

Obama in fact has six fingers on his left hand. This was covered up during his administration, much as FDR's use of a wheelchair was covered up during his administration.

Yeah, that painting really doesn't look anything like her. Obama's portrait is good, but the background is just odd. Those would be fine pictures as part of a generic art exhibit. But as official portraits go, they are clearly sub-par.

Like he's in the middle of a highlands Kenya jungle or something! lol

You know, that's probably a major not-even-mood-affiliation reason for people disliking them.

They're not "bad portraits" in the pure-art sense.

They're "bad traditional Presidential portraits", and people don't like innovation in that area, generally.

(Me, I just can't make myself care at all. They're not artistically interesting enough to me to care about, and I also don't care about "official portraits" and I've got not Team Whoever skin in the game.)

That was my impression, too. Bad hand and the weird choice of the hedge background aside, Barry's portrait is pretty good. Michelle's is...not.

Looks more like Kerry Washington.

"a generic black woman"

Maybe it's a perfect likeness after all.

Different strokes for different folks.

The only possible explanation of the disastrous Obama portraits are that they are a prank. The artist wanted to see who is so extensively mood-affiliated with Obama Love that they would actually defend these atrocities. No surprise that Tyler and the NYT are in that camp.

Personally, I think it's hilarious that they are such a laughingstock, and the Obamas are stuck with them in perpetuity. It couldn't happen to a more useless couple.

I can see someone defending Wiley, which is satisfactorily executed if inappropriate. The other one actually is a wreck of an effort. I knew people in high school who'd have done a better job in some medium (not, perhaps, oil).

It goes along with your belief that Obama being president was a fraud and conspiracy prank by, who, Putin, Saddam, bin Laden???

Obama, the least experienced and accomplished person to ever become president, is the figurehead of a leftist Cult of Personality. He's a simulacrum. The real Barry Soetero vanished. It's most definitely a conspiracy.

Michelle's really is Emperor's New Clothes territory

I like the idea of the pictures being a Dada-style prank - a presidential portrait that would even impress Marcel Duchamp.

both portraits are ridiculously bad - and I say that as someone who appreciates Jeff Koons.

The superb Scott Sumner

Still doubling down on a bad recruiting decision, I see.

Yeah Tyler, you really missed the boat on picking Sumner over this Art Deco genius.

He's right, Sumner is a dope.

Still waging that war on Puritanism, eh? Fight on, brave warrior.

He’s right, Sumner is a dope.

Sumner's principal thesis is that no one knows how to do their job or even understand how to do their job, especially Ben S. Bernanke; you have that on the authority of the business school professor from Boston. His other is that Donald Trump is Mussolini - or he's Mussolini until forensic strategies dictate that you're stupid for thinking Scott Sumner ever implied any such thing.

I think Mercatus should triple down and offer fellowships to Morgan Reynolds, Paul Craig Roberts, and Mr. Shadowstats, all of whom are somewhat more colorful than Scott Sumner.

#2. Someone ought to explain to the author that $45 in 2018 IS cheaper than $45 in the late 90s. Sure inflation has been low, but it hasn't been non-existent, and even 1 or 2% inflation adds up (OK, compounds) over twenty years.

You missed the authors point. His article is about “price stickiness". That skateboards have resisted inflation for a long time.

you mean explain to the person who mentioned in the article that $45 in 2018 IS cheaper than $45 in the late 90s? Why would we explain something to him after he proved he knew it?

For the portraits to work as presidential portraits they have to be photorealistic and/or reflect something about the subject to both current and future audiences.

I’d argue that as the miasma of mood affiliation among Obama fans disperses, future audiences will conclude that the pretentious mediocrity of the paintings is a fair reflection of the pretentious mediocrity of his presidency.

So they are a success but an unintended success.

5. Remember how liberals railed about the moronic wickedness of Bush's portrait?

"A vase of flowers sits on the table of a dining room set behind him."
It seems to sit on the sofa.

Ooh...ya know, they kinda weren't wrong.

That's not the official portrait in use.

Of the recent office holders, Bush the Elder's is the most handsomely executed and a faithful likeness. The color palette on Johnson's is off, the likeness of Nixon and Ford is not quite right, Carter's likeness has been amended to conceal how damaged and malproportioned his features have been, Reagan was given the wrong facial expression and an ineptly executed background, and with Bilge the brush strokes are too coarse. The presidents who held office prior to 1961 got a better deal from artists, and I suppose there's a certain rough justice in that.

I have heard that in Brazil they use a new technology called photography to portray their presidents. It tends to satisfy calls for photorealism.

Maybe we could learn from Brazil.

The portraits are hideous even standing alone. However, they are even worse considering where they will be hanging. Contrast serves neither one very well in this regard.

Fun, fun, fun!

"where they will be hanging"

In completely different galleries where one will be challenged to see contrast.

They hang along with the other presidential portraits and first ladies- I have seen the galleries- they will stick out like sore thumbs.

The best laugh I've had all day. Thanks!

#2 I don't get the Wrigley Field motif. Dude's a White Sox fan.

I thought the greenery was poison ivy.


Not a fan of him, but his portrait was decent. (Not up there with artists like Sargent -- but then, who is?). Her portrait has a nice color scheme but the face is not hers. This is one of those cases when the public knows just as much about art as the critics. They need to rehire someone to get the face right.

Here's a link to an updated version of the Obama portrait.

5. Obama's "was in large part a presidency of hagiography." Good, God! What's going on here? This morning Cowen informs us that Democrats are immoderate, in particular Rep. Schiff for his work on the committee investigating Russian interference in the election. This afternoon Cowen informs us that Obama's presidency was all about the adulation of a saint. I suggest one of three possibilities: One, Cowen ate something that disagreed with him; two, repentance for heresy (it is Ash Wednesday); or three, [censored - Cowen's personal life is off limits].

"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow . . . "

"5. The Obama portraits are in fact excellent."

No, just no Tyler. They are not excellent. Not by any reasonable standard. The JFK portrait is excellent. The Washington portrait is excellent.

This shows the President intertwined with a bunch of Ivy.

"Mood affiliation here prevents the correct outcome, which is that Obama skeptics should be more sympathetically inclined to the portraits, which (correctly or not) raise the possibility that his was in large part a presidency of hagiography."

Well, to be fair the official portrait does strike a Straussian similarity to the 2012 criticism of Obama as an empty chair. Was Clint Eastwood the artist?

Mood affiliation? "Admiration is the daughter of ignorance." Ben Franklin.

Looks like poison ivy.

The artist forgot to paint in the halo and the teleprompter.

"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow . . . "

Hey Dick, which president used the teleprompter the least since it was invented? I honestly don't know, but I'm sure you don't either. The answer is, likely, none of them, because they all use it. Including your orange buddy.

Hey, msgkings. If they annoy you, stop reading my BS comments.

I read comments in the interest of science and as part of my field work in alternate realities.

Parallel universes exist. Yesterday, I counted 13 in the MR in the comments sections.

The truth is out there.

Annoy me? Hardly, you're one of my favorites, keep it coming!

My personal favorite TOTUS incident was when his staff set up the presidential lectern complete with TelePrompTer's in a 6th grade classroom.

And there's this gem from a law school classmate, offered in 2008:

When I met Barack Obama, in our first year of law school, he had already put on his big-time politician act. He just didn’t quite have it polished, and he hadn’t figured out that he needed charm and humor to round out the confidence and intelligence. One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the “Obamanometer,” a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class - he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers.

He was pompous for sure. Good thing we finally have a president with no disagreeable personality traits.

Plus he never uses a teleprompter! Man that teleprompter joke never gets old!

I don’t get the joke, what is a TOTUS?

I know it’s AD so it has to be some thinly veiled potentially racially based insult.

Tree of the US? In regards to the painting?

The logical inference from the text would be teacher ?

I...don’t know. My only other guess would be a racial epithet but with a T...? one makes it to POTUS without being 3 sigma above the mean for unearned confidence. Any well functioning human would look at the responsibility and say no thanks. It’s become a job that demands a super human, which does not exist. Anyone who thinks they are remotely qualified is, in my opinion, a deranged narcissist by definition. Trump more so than Obama. I was never an Obama fan, but one of the most important parts of the presidency in the 21st century is playing the part. Decisions matter, but much less than people think, because the president has much less ability to change outcomes than people imagine.

A huge part of the job that has never been questioned until now was showing up in a suit, not saying insane shit, not identifying with white racially charged protests, and not tweeting stupid shit.

I’m loving the Trump Show. If it moves Democrats to federalism then Trump will be among the greatest presidents by accident. If it moves Democrats to not wanting to vest vast powers with the federal government he may be the greatest, yugest President ever.

If the democrat response is to move vastly more power to unaccountable bureaucracies then Trump will be the worst president ever.

I don’t get the joke, what is a TOTUS?

TelePrompTer of the United States. It's a perfectly commonplace cut directed at him for obvious reasons, and in use for 7 or 8 years now.

I know it’s AD so it has to be some thinly veiled potentially racially based insult.

Yeah, my hobby is coming up with clever insults to lob at the darkies.

Anyone who thinks they are remotely qualified is, in my opinion, a deranged narcissist by definition.

Which provides an excuse for the maroons who cast ballots in 2008 for a man whose executive experience consisted of running the Chicago Annenberg Challenge into the ground, who sat in legislatures for 12 years and managed to establish himself as an expert in nothing, and who drew a salary from the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years while publishing no scholarly papers. Clever, but transparently fraudulent.


"I don’t get the joke, what is a TOTUS?"

My guess is he means Teleprompter OTUS, but with (T)Art Deco , you can never say.

5..........................."in large part a presidency of hagiography."

Most of the Founding fathers' presidencies or biographies seem obviously hagiographic.

Come, come, they're just foundation myths.

President Obama's portrait has glaring technical problems (an extra finger, bad perspective on the chair) and poor composition. The greenery overwhelms the subject. Finally, there is a gamete problem that comports with the artist's prior work. Snopes resorted to "debunking" the sperm claims by offering a real picture of the veins in President Obama's head. The picture only highlighted the obviousness of the sperm inclusion in the portrait.

I didn't remember that Clinton's portrait had been painted by Chuck Close. I guess Obama wasn't the first president to choose a portraitist based on shared demography.

I thought the B. Obama portrait was kitschy. The photoshopped background is cheesy, but in keeping with the overall appearance of the thing, which is slapdash. Maybe you can say that was appropriate in representing his presidency, but he was a President. I don't think he deserves that. Rendering of the face and form was good though (the giant hands thing and the roll of flesh that some people claim look like a sixth finger are overblown as criticisms -- particularly from a scaling perspective, if you are looking at the portrait from below, I don't think you'd even notice the hands being large).

As a visual work, I can get what the M. Obama portrait was going for, and I can imagine it being very good (much better, conceptually and artistically, than the B. Obama portrait). But the execution was very weak. Face doesn't look like her, the shading on the arms is amateurish, etc. If a more competent draftsman executed that plan, it could have been as good as some commentators are stretching to say it is. Not to my taste, but not everything has to be.

Tyler, you really do need to defend your opinion of the Obama portraits. The three reviews you cite don't admit or play down the obvious defects of the paintings and aren't all that persuasive on what's good about them. The NYT artle, for example, admits that Mrs. Obama's portrait looks nothing like her, and argues as a good thing that Mr. Obama's makes himlook more engaged and aware than any time we've seen him in the flesh. I think a funny post could be written discussing the dance these three liberal reviewers had to do in avoiding saying too much about the actual pictures, as opposed to the artists, settings, etc.

5. When I first saw the portraits, one of the things I thought of was "Tyler's gonna say he loves these." Emphasis on the "say."

The portraits certainly lack gravitas. They seem to imply that we are an unserious people, which we are. The obvious technical flaws are evidence of declining competence. History won’t judge us based on this portrait, but there are a myriad of similar examples that will be used to simplify the late Anglo empire for children.

Exactly correct. Obama is the epitome of aggrandized mediocrity or incompetence. The perfection of the portraits is in how bad they are. They're intended to be bad. And equally intended to be lauded for being bad.

And what is Trump the epitome of? How about George W Bush? Do you people even know what the word 'hypocrisy' means?

Working word is 'aggrandized'. Bush was not 'aggrandized'. Both were better than average but not great minds. Only one is portrayed better than that.

Bush is the last gasp of the 20th century WASP aristocracy after the collapse of all of the institutions that allowed it to function as an aristocracy. He is like a talisman for an American cargo cult.

Trump is Biff from Back to the Future.

Think bigger

The Mr Obama portrait includes a joke at the expense of Mr Trump (look at Obama's huge hands), and a strange incompetence at painting the chair.

The Mrs Obama portrait is excellent, in that it doesn't look like her.

They were done that way because Trump paid for them to be the subject of controversy to divert attention from his failing administration.

He promised really cheap universal health care.

He promised the best infrastructure in the world being built by well paid American workers.

He promised total victory everywhere and a total end to all conflict.

He promised a balanced budget.

He promised trade surpluses.

He promised no immigrants would be employed by any Trump enterprise.

5. The controversy over the portraits has raised the status/importance of the portraits themselves. Now JFK's portrait also sticks out like a sore thumb. George W Bush's is also a bad portrait, though it is better than FLOTUS MIchelle's in that it at least highly resembles the subject. Barack's has errors of technical execution, while Michelle's fails to capture her physical beauty - where are her GUNS? Fans of the Obamas SHOULD NOT like these portraits, insofar as they fail to enhance the Obamas' status.

I really like JFKs portrait.

You miss the point about Obama's supporters by trying to apply rationality to a cult of personality.

They HAVE to like these portraits as they have to like everything else about Obama from the mole on his face to his tan suit to his wife's bare arms to everything else he does or says. Obama is the American version of Kim Jong Un.

#5: The artist, Kehinde Wiley, has cultivated this outrageously edgy image doing political and racialized portraits. And Tyler suggests that "mood affiliation" of this outrageously racialized imagery is clouding people's judgement of fine art portrait technique? That is quite the daft claim to make.

Without claiming to know fully what mood affiliation means, it seems you're on to something. The mood affiliation label is defensive projection for actual mood affiliation.

Couldn't we reasonably believe the portraits are crap without even knowing who these people are?

The portrait was pretty obviously painted as a copy of a photograhic image of Obama, the foliage notwithstanding. Right down to copying the hue and coloring of the refilections and highlights within the original photo rather than more naturally incorporating reflected light from the surrounding foliage.

This isn't just a bad painting. Its bad photoshop.

I hope, at least, the photographer is given a credit line on the image.

The painting's meant to be surreal, so I don't think the lighting difference hurts it.

Astute observation.

Could it be said that the objectively superior earlier portraits are at least partially the result of sitting for the portrait rather than relying on photographs?

Are modern presidents more lazy or do they have a higher opportunity cost of their time? Or do they care less about a faithful representation of themselves? Or does the mere availability of photography alter the cost benefit analysis, I.e. working off a photograph is a much cheaper but acceptable quality alternative to sitting for the artist?

Over the last 40-odd years, former presidents have engaged in frenetic buckraking, so I don't think 'laziness' is the impediment there.

6. Why is Asia limited to Japan and Korea ?

#6 -- I'd say he has Bladerunner 2049 slightly too low and Baby Driver far too low.

Blade Runner 2049 (US) 3.5 This is an outstanding film in many ways, especially the visual effects. So why do I rate it slightly below the original? I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s just a question of originality—the first one had a fresh (and sublime) vision, and this one just recycled that vision.

I think it's better to see the second film as a companion to the first. The originality comes from the change in perspective -- instead of a man questioning his humanity, we have a replicant questioning what it means to be a replicant.

Baby Driver (US) 2.8 Mildly entertaining, but also rather silly.

Maybe so, but ten years down the line I'll bet he's watched this more than all the others. At some point it will make its way to cable, where the high rewatchability will win out.

So BR 2049 is an anti-abortion film then? I think this review is too generous. Yes, it had lots of interesting effects. But Ryan Gosling is no Harrison Ford. In fact Harrison Ford wasn't much of a Harrison Ford either. If you're going to cast a borderline fruitcake like Jared Leto you need to give him something to do. Especially if you cast him as a borderline fruitcake. And something believable. Robin Wright was never much of an actress but she simply phoned something in from the set of House of Cards. Which left the best roles being played by the amazingly wooden Dave Bautista and the hologram girl.

If it is about what it means to be a Replicant, what does it mean to be a Replicant? The original film actually tried to show the betrayal and hurt of Sean Young when her cherished childhood turned out to be fake. BR2049 gave us what in its place? Gosling's realization that he was not the Chosen One? Come on. Gosling's character had a life time to come to terms with being what he is.

As for Baby Driver, it has a great sound track. Some wonderful action scenes involving car chases. Jamie Foxx is outstanding as one of the all time best film psychopaths. Other than that, it is silly. Doc has a sudden change of heart for no reason. Baby gets an absurdly light sentence - he is actually a murderer. There is no explanation why they think forcing him to drive is a good idea. The relationship between Baby and Deborah is unbelievable.

Ansel Elgort is not bad as Baby though. Spacey has his moments. John Hamm was disappointing.

This is another disappointing post.

This constant drumbeat about mood affiliation needs to stop. Implications of mood affiliation are a piss-poor form of argument. It functions as an excuse to dismiss those you disagree with. And, as a logical matter, its really just a dressed up ad hominem attack. Its a lazy mental crutch and its making you a less interesting thinker and blogger. If you want to make an argument for or against the portraits, or about anything really, just make it directly and on the merits. It will take longer but you will be better for it.

The phrase: "his was in large part a presidency of hagiography" is ridiculously bad communication. You cannot actually be saying that Obama's Presidency is actually a story told about his Presidency. That would circular and nonsensical. A saint is not, in any part, his hagiography. One is a person, the other is a story. A presidency is more complex and harder to define than a person (I think a period of time in which a particular person serves as President and exercises executive power is a fair start) but it is still not the same thing as a story. So what do you mean?

I think Tyler's point is that the paintings are fitting for Obama, people felt an obligation to like Obama to prove they were racist, and now they feel an obligation to like the paintings for a similar signalling reason. But lots of people liked Obama for real, not something that can be said about these paintings.

Maybe. He could easily say that if that is what he meant. I tend to think that its a combination of TC's thinking being unsettled (his language reflects his own lack of clarity) and that he thinks there is merit in throwing out ambiguous posts to elicit responses from his readers.

Is there a concise definition of "Mood Affiliation" out there that someone can point me to?

I know just what you mean.

I believe this was one of the early descriptions:

Its called confirmation bias.

"Mood affiliation here prevents the correct outcome, which is that Obama skeptics should be more sympathetically inclined to the portraits, which (correctly or not) raise the possibility that his was in large part a presidency of hagiography"


6. Not sure if it’s that Netflix does not have good stuff or that it is knowing what to look for. Very much appreciate the tip on Sweet Bean which I just enjoyed on Netflix and am now getting caught up in The Vanishing Time, also on Netflix and it too seems like it will be a thumbs up. Noticed that several others are on Prime so Summer’s list will be keeping me busy for a while.

#1. She is quoted as claiming that in her many years in business, only twice has she been unable to provide a transcription. This is simply not credible.

Surgeons don't count the patients they don't operate on who die as their failures

5. Those portraits popularity seem to be part of a larger fad:

I'm sorry for my sarcastic/mocking comment the other day about Proggers penchant for creating legislation to specifically outlaw (things that are already illegal) based on events that make them feelz a certain way.

I guess after today's horrific events, we can expect Proggers to pitch legislation that makes it illegal for former students to go back to their prior school campus.

If those Proggers had any sense they'd fast track legislation mandating all teachers carry AR-15s to prevent these kinds of things. We all know the solution to gun violence is MOAR GUNS

What makes you think every problem, including horrendous problems, have any feasible solution at all?

I guess you're right. Let's not even try to do anything.

Well if Vox, the New York Times, and the New Yorker all love the portraits, they must be good!

I don't like saying this, but the paintings look like they're from The Night Gallery.

#5 - not going to waste my time reading the New York Times, The New Yorker, or Vox on the portraits, since most of us could probably write the essays ourselves

Presidency of Hagiography seems correct. I don't think that the artist should get particular credit, because I doubt he realizes he's participating in the delusion.

Ultimately, it seems like everyone in the industry—from shop employees to brands to manufacturers—agrees that decks should cost more.

I am shocked to learn that people in an industry wish they could sell their product for more money

"She fell into this line of work about a decade ago, when a cousin asked for help deciphering a family will and she discovered that she has a talent for interpreting the strange, scrawling writing of the past."

While I suspect the effort they make is honest it's an odd statement. If no one else can really read it then what standard is used to assess if the interpretation is in fact factual/true. Or is this just another, perhaps hidden and unintended, case of today rewriting history from it's own perspective and claiming it's true.

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