Tuesday, June 6, 2017

With a photo snap the world's great paintings can become unique art for your home

This painting is in the British Museum and is pretty unusual.
    If you would like to have original prints and artwork for your home at a really cheap price, you might be interested in my recent experiment, which I think worked out great.
    While visiting the British Museum a few months ago I snapped a photo of a large painting drawn on the occasion of the coronation of Ethiopian Emporor Haile Selassie in 1930. I was planning to try to make a copy of the painting, so I made a point of trying to get a straight and level shot.
    Museums are full of really neat paintings, and while the museums might try to claim reproduction rights to these, the fact is that the museums have no rights at all if the paintings are out of copyright -- the older paintings are in the public domain. In the case of the Ethiopian painting, there was no copyright law in Ethiopia at the time it was created, but even so, under current Ethiopian law any copyright would have expired after 50 years as it is an anonymous work.
    A few weeks ago I got around to doing some photo editing. I decided to have the painting reprinted on a 16x20 canvas from Wal-Mart, as the cost was only $30. That meant I had to chop off the two side panels, which showed various animals living peacefully ever after, keeping just the main section. I had never used the “skew” function of Photoshop, but this is important, as it will help make your painting into a perfect “square” or “rectangle,” essentially removing any distance distortion that was created from your camera angle.
    After a bit of tinkering, I put the print on a Wal-Mart canvas. I actually had to “undersize” the print by about five percent, leaving a white border all the way around it, as this ended up being cut off; if you don't do this, you will lose part of your picture. With luck and a bit of trial and error, I was able to get the little rope border on the painting to appear on the side of the canvas, at the very edge of the frame, which I think looks neat.
Rope border worked perfectly
    I made this painting for my son, Ash, to put in his dorm room. Daughter Lucy has demanded one of her own. I am going to experiment with some other companies that do canvas prints, and perhaps go ahead and pay up to get a larger version that will include the chopped off side panels.
    In addition to creating unique art for personal use, I would think one could make a little extra money by finding neat paintings and later reproducing them on canvas. Some people call this cultural appropriation, which is a great thing to do because it makes liberals mad, so have fun with art!

The final product, perfect for home or dorm room

Thursday, April 13, 2017

We need legislation now to make air travel less hellish, airline employees less abusive



As Twisted Sister says, We don't have to take it from the airlines any more

     United Airlines called in the police to severely beat one of its already boarded passengers this week for refusing to give up his seat on an aircraft. And the nation took notice.
    The president of the company initially blamed the victim, claiming that United agents had followed established policy and that the 69-year-old doctor who was dragged off the plane was “belligerent.” Neither of these statements is true: Airlines have no right to “bump” passengers who have already boarded an aircraft, and in this case the doctor was quietly minding his own business until the the United agents unlawfully tried to take his seat; even then the doctor firmly refused, but there have been no reports of belligerence. So on top of a bloody face the poor man was defamed to a national audience by the president of the company.
    To make matters worse, United’s victim had a sordid sexual past involving the giving out of prescription pain pills to a lover and the suspension of his medical license almost two decades ago. At some point he was said to have “anger management” issues. Although there is no evidence that he was disruptive on the flight, various press outlets trumpeted this news, so that the whole world now knows of this poor bloody-faced man's tawdry conduct two decades ago. So what we have is a United Airlines passenger who has been beaten, defamed by the president of the company, and totally humiliated by the press for exercising his contractual right to not give up his seat on an airplane. This from an airline with the slogan: "Fly the Friendly Skies."
    This man isn’t alone. Most of the airlines treat all of us like crap; United just has the worst reputation of the lot. Shortly after this story went viral another disgruntled United passenger told about how he was ejected from his paid first class seat and forced to sit in a economy middle seat between a feuding couple because somebody “more important” arrived at the gate at the last minute. When he tried to stand his ground he was told to give up his first-class seat or he would be put in handcuffs.
    Most of us have no problem with the airlines bumping passengers; we know it’s part of the business. But there is a difference between bumping someone prior to boarding and yanking someone who has already boarded off a plane because someone the airline deems more important has arrived at the last minute. Once passengers board a plane their rights are governed by the Contract of Carriage, and airlines that bully passengers need to face government fines, civil actions, and criminal charges.
    But we need more. For the past several years the airlines have intentionally been making their coach product as wretched as possible to give passengers an incentive to pay a much higher  price for premium seats. For example, the 747 and the 777 flew for years with nine-across seating, with a relatively comfortable seat width of about 18.5 inches. A few years ago several airlines added a 10th seat, even though it meant reducing the seat width to an incredibly narrow 17 inches, which was unheard of on long-haul jets. The Boeing 787 was designed for comfortable eight-across seating, but the airlines crammed in an extra seat making this the most uncomfortable plane in the sky. Certainly there is no evidence that the American public is getting skinnier.
    Adding these seats adds very little net revenue. A tenth seat increases row gross revenue by 11 percent, but this increase also comes with substantial expenses, in that it does cost real money to fly people from here to there, and an increased passenger load requires increased staffing; the net revenue increase is probably less than five percent per row. Most of us would gladly pay five or six percent more to fly in comfort rather than absolute misery. But we aren't offered that option; instead we can pay double or more for a much larger Premium Economy seat. I don't want to pay double for something I don't need; I want to pay five or six percent more for the same width we've flown with for years.
    Airlines say that customers only shop for low fares, and they have to offer the most stripped-down product imaginable. Perhaps. But this is where government regulation has a role in protecting society. Congress needs to enact legislation protecting to protect the flying public.
    ● We need protection from heavy handed actions by the airlines. No one who has boarded an aircraft should ever be required to give up their seat to someone “more important.” Airline employees who bully innocent passengers with threats of arrest should themselves face criminal charges.
    ● We need regulations concerning minimum seat width and pitch (legroom). Planes with eight or more seats across should be required to have a minimum seat width of eighteen inches and most planes should be required to have a minimum seat pitch of 31 inches (As a practical matter, this means the 747 and 777 should be limited to nine seats across and the 787 to eight seats. This might result in slightly higher fares, but it will also reduce the number of air rage incidents, as well as health problems associated with being crammed into a small space for a long time. The best way to enforce this is by placing a small tax on airline tickets for nonconforming seats; airlines wishing to sell tickets for a mini-seat will have to add a tax to the ticket price, thus eliminating the incentive for these abominable seating arrangements.
    ● Young children should receive an assigned seat next to an adult at the time of booking. If the airline wants to charge extra for this assigned seat, fine, but families shouldn’t be forced or allowed to engage is desperate on-plane efforts to convert five middle seats into five seats together. It’s not fair to the family and it’s not fair to the other passengers.
    ● We need for the government to do a better job of explaining exactly what the rights of the airlines are and exactly what the rights of the passengers are. And then we need for those rights to be enforced by the courts, by the Department of Transportation, and of course by us, the flying public. And when airline employees use the police to violate customer rights, those employees should face criminal charges themselves.
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    Those who are tired of the airlines running roughshod over the citizenry should contact their congressman and ask for regulations to protect the flying public. You may do so by clicking on the links below:

To email Sen. Thad Cochran, click here.

To email Sen. Roger Wicker, click here.

To email Rep. Trent Kelly, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bogus claims of Hispanic racism fail to look at past American behavior; We Love Lucy!


    A few really old people will remember the television show "I Love Lucy," starring Lucille Ball and her Hispanic husband, Desi Arnaz, which appeared on television through the 1950s, with Arnaz playing Ricky Ricardo, a flamboyantly Latin orchestra leader.
    Because of the overwhelming anti-Hispanic racism of the time, the show flopped, and Arnaz was arrested and tried for violating miscegenation laws, and both were put in jail for several years.
    Oh, wait, that's an alternate history. In fact, America loved Desi Arnaz and didn't care one whit that he was married to a "white" woman. Most Americans don't view Hispanics or Latinos as a separate race at all. In fact, the whole idea of Hispanics being a separate race is fake news drummed up by liberals. "I Love Lucy" didn't flop – it was the highest rated show on television for four out of five of the years from 1952-1957.
    "I Love Lucy" got its start in 1951, the same year as another hit movie, "Show Boat," starring the very white Ava Gardner. Gardner played the role of a light skinned black woman in a relationship with a white man. Her role originally was supposed to have been played by Lena Horne, who was perfect for the role since she was a a light skinned black woman who was actually already known for singing some of the songs in the show in an earlier movie, "Till The Clouds Roll By." The show's producers had, in fact, created some makeup to make Horne just a little lighter. They ended up using it on Gardner instead to make her a little darker. If you look at the video above, you will realize that while Gardner was a talented actress, America truly lost out by not having Horne play the part. Gardner's singing was dubbed, although archive copies show it wasn't really bad; but it wasn't Lena Horne, either.
    So in the 1950s Americans were perfectly happy with the notion of a Hispanic man being married to a red-headed "white" woman, to the point that they would tune in to their television program every week and make it America's top-rated show. Yet the same people, while able to accept a movie plot that involved a sexual relationship between a "mulatto" and a white, could not stand for the black person in that movie to actually be played by a black actress, lest said miscegeny actually take place before their eyes.
    My point in all of this is that we're being told these days that we're "racist" for wanting to enforce our nation's immigration laws. The fact that we want to deport poor, unskilled, sometimes criminal, often-on-welfare, illegal immigrants who usually happen to be Hispanic, is cited as proof of "racism."
    Here's a secret. We don't want to deport people because they are Hispanic, or "brown," (most really aren't very brown, but what the hell). We want to deport them because they are in our country illegally and are on welfare (the rate for their anchor children is through the roof), and/or are criminal, and/or low skill. We want to deport them because it is in the national interest to do so, and because it is an act of treason not to attempt to do so (I feel that it is treason for public officials not to act in the national interest. I think they should be hanged for not doing so).
    We need to recognize that American blacks suffered and still suffer unique discrimination. I frequently disagree mightily with the solutions proposed by black leaders for problems of the past or present, but I don't think anyone can be indifferent to some of the indignities suffered by middle- and upper-middle-class blacks. To somehow elevate these criminal border-jumpers to the rank of comrades-in-arms to black Americans is an outrage. I suppose I don't have a dog in the hunt, but I certainly will not stand for it on my end.
    I find it amazing that many black leaders seem to be supporting the open border movement, when unskilled blacks are the group that suffers most from illegal Hispanic immigration. In south Texas, much of California, and much of Florida, one must speak Spanish to get an unskilled-labor job. This essentially cuts blacks out of the unskilled labor market. The silly inclusion of Hispanics in the affirmative action pool (why? they've never suffered?) means less will be available for blacks. It's just racial suicide for blacks to support this, but their white Democratic leaders tell them to, so they do.
    There is always discrimination against those who don't speak English in the local vernacular or who dress or act differently. But there is very little discrimination against Hispanics who have adapted to American culture. This lack of discrimination shows that a desire to enforce our immigration laws isn't based on racism, but simply good public policy. It should continue.
    Build the Wall. Enforce Our Laws.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Time spent in store full of junk finds one piece of treasure worth keeping

     Jinny bought me a Valentine's present from a country Alabama junk store and I couldn't be happier with it.
    As she related to me, she had a couple of hours to kill while on a business trip needed to stretch her legs for a few minutes while on a car trip and decided to check out an antique mall. It wasn't a very nice antique mall. In one of the stalls she noticed a photo of Margaret Thatcher in a beat-up wooden frame. She didn't think anything about it and walked on by, but then returned to take another look.
    The photograph was autographed. She removed the photo from the frame to see if it was a printed photo and it wasn't. It was on photo stock, and the autograph was in blue grease pencil. Neither of us is a handwriting expert, but after looking at various samples of Thatcher's signature on the Internet, we both concluded that the signature was indeed that of the British Iron Lady. Jinny reframed the photo and I found a very nice spot for it.
    It certainly not that hard to buy autographed photos of Baroness Thatcher, but I doubt very seriously that I'll ever come across one for $10, which is what Jinny paid for mine. As the old saying goes, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," and my Margaret Thatcher photo is a treasure indeed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My 15- to 20-year-old computer programs run just fine on Windows 10, but a 2010 program? Nah

    We all know that software compatibility is a big problem for those upgrading to a new operating system; programs that worked on Windows XP might not work on Windows 7 or Windows 10. The only solution is software upgrades costing anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars per program, or application as they are called these days.
    Does anybody besides me find it a bit odd that these programs just simply quit working every time Microsoft has a major upgrade of Windows? Either Microsoft is designing their operating systems so that they won't run old software, or more likely, software manufacturers are designing their software so that minor changes in operating systems will render the software completely non-functional.
    I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that I don't need "new and improved." Windows XP set the standard for operating systems; I do understand it had some security flaws and perhaps it had to go, but we, the computer-using public, did not need any non-security-related changes or improvements to Windows XP; once the apex is reached, the apex is reached.
    But we've had change whether we wanted it or not, first with the incredibly dreadful Windows Vista system, then with the XP-like Windows 7, and then the laughably disastrous Windows 8, which was so bad Microsoft skipped all the way to Windows 10 in an effort to distance itself from the tubercular  dog (what kind of stupid fool doesn't include a "start" button?). With each of these upgrades, fairly new software releases simply quit working, and the only way to make them work again was to pay a few hundred dollars per program for an upgrade.
    As evidence of my assertion that modern programs are designed to fail when software is upgraded, I would point to the fact that I have several very old programs that I have continued to use since Windows 98 was the new thing. These programs run just fine on Windows 10 because, unlike newer programs, they were not designed to fail.
    I quit using Corel Draw years ago, but it has a few features that I like to use, and I decided today  to see if I could install my old Corel Draw 7 onto my Windows 10 platform. It installed without a hitch and runs just fine. Corel Draw 7 was released Oct. 8, 1996, but based on my search of the Internet, versions of Corel Draw from 2010 and perhaps even 2012 will not work on Windows 10.
    A few years ago I was upgrading computers and tried to load my tried-and-true Photoshop 6, issued in September 2000, with no luck; my computer said Photoshop 6 was not compatible with Windows 7. In a Hail-Mary effort I finally just copied the Windows 6 folder from the old computer and plopped it down in the new one and then put a shortcut on my start menu. It worked like a charm. I'm sure Adobe has made improvements in their program since 2000, but I would rather have a program that I paid for once that was a little out of date than one with a few extra bells and whistles that had to be upgraded every three years. Many newer versions of Photoshop -- save for the very newest -- simply will not work on Windows 10.
    Few companies have been more draconian in their copy protection schemes than QuarkXPress, but as luck would have it they released one edition of their software that didn't require jumping through a million hoops to use -- QuarkXPress V -- which just happens to be the version I have (I actually bought a newer version, but didn't like it as much as Quark V). Various Internet message boards are wet with the tears of people unable to get their Quark versions to install and run on Windows 10, but when I upgraded my computer Quark V loaded just fine. QuarkXPress V was released in 2002.
    As a practical matter, we don't need any more improvements in operating systems; we don't need "better" software. What we need is for software makers to stop intentionally writing their programs so that they won't be able to run should there be future operating system changes.
    If my 20-year-old computer programs will run just fine on Windows 10, then versions of the same software released five or six years ago ought to be able to run as well. If not, the failure is intentional and somebody ought to go to jail.

University of Kansas showcases black Mississippi writers, including Holly Springs' Ida Wells

    The Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas is  sponsoring a series of events, Black History Suite 2017, celebrating works of black Mississippi or Mississippi-related writers during what it calls the Mississippi Renaissance, a period from World War I to the Great Depression and World War II era. Events will include panel discussions, a digital exposition, and a showing of "Yazoo Revisited" by David Morris.
    Among the writers featured are Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, and Ida B. Wells. Wright is best known for his novels "Black Boy" and "Native Son," but a panel discussion will focus on his "Blueprint for Negro Writing."
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    Ida Wells, who was born and reared in Holly Springs, was born into slavery in 1862. Her father was owned by Spires Bolling, an architect whose homes were known for featuring octagonal columns. He also built the Walter Place, with its unusual octagonal wings on each end. The Wells family lived at the Bolling Place, which was later the Gatewood home, and is now the site of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum.
Wells
    Wells, who lost both parents to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, struggled to support and keep her younger siblings together by working as a schoolteacher. Her frustration over receiving $30 per month while white teachers were paid $80 per month led her to become active in a movement to seek equal pay for black teachers, which led to her firing, after which she moved to Memphis.
    In May 1884, Wells refused to give up her seat on a Tennessee train and move to another rail car; when the conductor tried to forcibly move her she bit his hand. She was thrown off the train and successfully sued the train company, obtaining a $500 judgment in circuit court. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned this judgment in 1887 and assessed Wells $200 in costs. This case was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which found that segregation laws were not unconstitutional under the "separate but equal" doctrine which remained controlling law until Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
    (An interesting note is that Plessy v. Ferguson was a "friendly" lawsuit carefully coordinated between Plessy and the railroad company, both of whom believed that the Supreme Court would find segregation laws unconstitutional. The railroad company wanted Plessy to prevail, as it did not want the expense of having to maintain two sets of passenger cars).
    In 1889, Wells, who was working in Memphis as a schoolteacher, became owner of the Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper published out of the Beale Street Baptist Church. Her opposition to segregation and articles decrying the poor condition of black schools led to her firing in 1891.
    Also in 1889, three of Wells' friends were lynched, which led her to become active in the national anti-lynching movement, in which she often collaborated with W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglas. In 1992, she published a famous anti-lynching pamphlet, "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases."
    On May 27, 1892, a white mob destroyed the offices of Wells' newspaper. Because of threats on her life she soon moved to Chicago, where she wrote articles for the New York Observer and began to work for the Chicago Conservator, that city's oldest black newspaper.
    During the 1890s Wells traveled extensively to promote civil rights, including trips to Europe. In 1909 Wells was one of seven black and 53 white founders of the NAACP. In later life she retreated from the national spotlight somewhat as she devoted herself to family life, although she remained active in support of civil rights throughout her life until her death in 1931.
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    The Black History Suite will also feature a showing of David Rae Morris' "Yazoo Revisited," which looks at what eventually because an unsuccessful attempt to integrate the Yazoo City schools. Morris's father, Willie Morris, who I was proud to call a friend, first wrote about the effort  in his book, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep-Southern Town." Willie Morris' book ends with him firmly convinced that Yazoo City's school had successfully integrated, maintaining a 40 percent white student enrollment. By 2000 the school system was 99 percent non-white.
    I viewed and reviewed a very early cut of this documentary in 2013, and while I enjoyed it, I was disappointed that no effort had been made to interview white families who originally stayed with and strongly supported the public system but then later drifted away. These were people of good will and not hard-core segregationists, and their viewpoints might enlighten future school choices. These are difficult issues, and ones many people might be loathe to talk about on camera, but if the question is never asked then there will never be a solution. Hopefully Morris has added some of this material to his documentary.



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Graham 
    The Black Literary Suite will use the hashtags #HBW and #BlackLitSuite for Twitter conversations; the Twitter address is @ProjectHBW. Information is also available at projecthbw.blogspot.com.
    The Project on the History of Black Writing was founded by Kansas professor Maryemma Graham in 1983 while she was a professor at Ole Miss. It maintains a small library at the University of Kansas and is currently completing a digital archive of African-American novels, the first in the United States.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Drink Yuengling, wear L.L. Bean; do not buy burnt-bean Starbucks swill as it is crap


Edit: Since I wrote this Nordstrom has pulled Ivanka Trump's products from its stores, supposedly because of poor sales. I wish there were Nordstrom stores in the southeast so I could refuse to shop with them, but I will refuse to shop with them.

    Starbucks recently made a big production of opposing President Trump’s immigration policies by declaring that they would hire 10,000 economic migrants, in the process denying jobs to 10,000 Americans. Obviously they don’t need my money.
    Macy’s denounced President Trump and removed his clothing line from its stores. Shoes.com quit selling Ivanka Trump’s products as well. Budweiser has a new ad clearly designed to promote an open borders policy that will destroy our nation. Target allows grown men to go in the girl’s bathroom to spy on little girls; they say it is their right. Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily, RueLaLa, and Stein Mart have apparently removed Trump merchandise from their stores for political reasons. Again, they don’t need my money.
    Meanwhile, the Yuengling brewery has been facing boycotts from Trotskyites upset that Trump visited the brewery during the campaign. They are also urging boycotts of L.L. Bean because one Bean family member supported Donald Trump.
    For those of you who are Trump supporters, or just decent people in general, this is where we stand:
    1. We all need to drink Yuengling beer, which comes from the oldest brewery in America.
    2. We all need to buy products from L.L. Bean;
    3. Everyone needs to boycott Starbucks bigly, which should be extremely easy since their coffee is made with burnt beans and tastes like crap;
    4. Do not shop at  Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily, RueLaLa, and Stein Mart. Just say no. Do not shop at Target. Above all, do not shop at Macy’s;
    5. Stay tuned.