Friday, August 31, 2018

The Friday Link for 8/31/18

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.  I'm heading to the Fair, but I guarantee there will be a lot of home grilling at Chateau McNeil!

Two fun ones for you this week.  Jason Bateman is a great comedic actor whose career is pretty spectacular.  He's had the occasional stinker (Simon???) but pound for pound his career has been amazing.  Arrested Development made him an all time great TV Character with Michael Bluth, but I forgot completely he was on Little House on the Prairie.  He's worked with some of the biggest names in television history, including Michael Landon and Bob Newhart, but if I can put in a plug for one of my all time favorite actresses, and my personal choice for Bateman's 2nd best TV show, from Valerie (in it's various names), the wonderful Sandy Duncan.  Love her!  With the new season of the drama Ozark, Vanity Fair did this great retrospective of Bateman's career.

Since I did the Great British Bake Off last week, I decided to revisit another of my favorite shows, Antiques Roadshow.

Everyone loves the show because of the reactions of the unsuspecting people.  I remember the Colonial cross stitch sewing sample some guy found in his house and was floored to discover it was one of the best examples the appraiser had ever seen.  It was appraised at 30K, as the owner stuttered, insisting he was about to throw it out and keep the cheap frame the sample was in.

Here is the top 10 items they ever found on the US version of Antique Roadshow, with the most expensive item being discovered in St. Paul.  I could have sworn they had a guy bring in a conquistador's helmet, one that he found digging in his back yard, only to have the expert label it priceless, insisting a museum be called immediately.  When I search for that, I can't find anything.  Maybe I dreamt it.  Helmets aside, they've found some real amazing items.  Enjoy!

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  Drive safe, enjoy some grilling, and watch out for the kiddos beginning school on Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Flowers of the Mind

It may surprise you that a hobby of mine is taking photos of flowers.  I kind of stumbled into it, and I have enjoyed the endeavor for the last ten years.

Here are some of the better ones I took this summer.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rooting for the Asteroid

One night this summer, I was with the kids watching Netflix when one of them asked to see a real summer blockbuster.  Scrolling through the movie choices, I came across Armageddon, the Bruce Willis vehicle which was a huge summer hit from 1998.  That movie has not aged well, and yet somehow it has aged perfectly.

The story of oil drillers being called upon to save the world as an asteroid is hurtling towards the planet is one of the greatest suspensions of belief in ANY summer movie.  Because they determine they have to blow the asteroid up from deep inside to prevent it from hitting earth (?), they recruit the non-astronaut oil drillers to fly on suped up Space Shuttles (??), with nukes and a minimal space/science teams along with (???), with a preposterous refueling stop at a Russian space station (????) only to have Willis character of Harry have to take control of the entire asteroid mission, not only in space, but at NASA headquarters in Houston too (?????) not because everyone was dead, but because these astronauts just don't understand what you have to do to save earth (??????) with great actors like Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, Owen Wilson, Jason Isaacs, Michael Clark Duncan, and Ben Affleck all appearing at their lowest career moment (???????).  How did this movie make any money?

My kids started outright laughing at the movie when the line "he has space dementia" was delivered.  I actually had to stop the movie at that point because it was so freaking ludicrous, my kids took ten minutes to stop.  The acting, the science, the script; it's all absolute garbage.

The movie its basically Rednecks in Space.  They should've named the two shuttles the "General" and the "Lee".  It was anti-city slickers cliche multiplied: 'you book smart folks don't know about nothin and nobody so you just move to the side and let us good old country folks...drill a whole into a massive asteroid in space and deploy a nuclear weapon to save the Earth, like gramps used to do!'

That last paragraph doesn't do the movie justice.  The beginning of the film is all about Harry complaining about how nobody respects him and his crew for doing a tough job where you get dirty.  The rest of the film is Harry and his crew disrespecting EVERYONE else for doing their job.  From portraying all the intelligent people at NASA as pencil pushing nerds, to portraying Asian investors like kids in a messy Nickelodeon ride, to portraying one of Harry's geologists (Buscemi - a man who thinks getting money from a loan shark just so he can have clothed slippers rub up against him is a great investment, who then questions the propulsion and space experts as NASA) as smart, even downplaying and insulting a seasoned life time astronaut who managed to land one of the shuttles on a wildly rotating asteroid in the middle of a massive asteroid storm, calling him a fool because he missed the designated landing zone by only 26 miles.  The only thing missing would be if the asteroid space vehicles used were pick up trucks, and somehow one of their hound dogs comes along with them.

This is how the film actually is a precursor of our time.  Nothing sizes up Trump supporters bitter hatred of the modern book smart individual than Armageddon.  Nothing better encompasses the modern port a potty scrubber's resentment and frustration with how their life has ended up then their  praying someday NASA might call on them to save the planet form a dirty port a potty asteroid.  'My life isn't turning out how I planned, but instead of changing it myself, I'll just marinate in my disappointment, hoping I get to prove to everyone I was the smart one for not making my life better!'  Isn't that every gun kooks fantasy, to try to stop a school shooter or terrorist group with their gun, showing the world they were the right all along?  And the beginning of the film is a great representation of our modern Right wing Christian, when Harry is golfing golf balls at Greenpeace boats, hitting people, and then screaming "Stop whining, I gave you money."  The modern Republican Christian validates their anger and hatred at the poor and hungry by saying "I gave money to my church, hence I've earned the right to insult you poors."

Armageddon IS the modern Republican, how they perceive themselves, unintentionally emphasizing the ambivalence to how wrong they are, and how much of jackass they can be!

There's a brief moment of light when Harry blows himself up on the asteroid to save Earth (oops, spoiler alert), but it's not enough.  This movie is atrocious.  It makes you long for a planet killing astronomical event.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Friday Link for 8/24/18

As we get ready to wrap up summer, let me fondly remember one of the best reasons to stay inside on summer Friday nights, the PBS airing of the final season of Great British Bake Off.

Yes it was un-apologetically British.  Yes they dealt with intricate lattice work and sugary frostings.  Yes they had some of the most repressed people in history having their first broaches with emotions.  It was AMAZING!

I've often said they had to make this in Britain because if they made this show in the US, the hosts would be constantly calling the contestants pathetic, the show would introduce a mystery ingredient from some far off land which no one in their right mind would ever use, contestants would be constantly recording prepared snarky lines to deliver with American jerkishness, there would be a bikini week, and one contestant would have to bake on a shovel each week.  Thank goodness England saved us.

I love the show and I've tried baking more than a few things I've seen on the show.  I've even avoided the 'soggy bottom,' as I imagined I was getting a "scrummy" from Mary Berry.  The Great British Bake Off also produced the greatest Reality Show contestant ever, Howard from Season 4.  His nebbish, nerdy British-ness was what initially hooked me in, but when he almost put his face on a hot griddle, I fell in love.  He is the best.

The worst part of the show is how they never factor in consistency into the final winner decision.  Three times the best baker was not awarded the title at the end of the season because that one episode is all that mattered.  If you're really looking for the best in anything, consistency should be a metric.

The show left the BBC for another British network, and so the final season PBS had agreed to air (the actual 3rd season of the show) finished up a week ago and so now...sigh...

Here are Watch Mojo's top 10 moments from the original show.

Also Watch Mojo's top 10 contestants...No Howard?!?  How dare they!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Summer Art

I wanted to post some of the art photos I've taken this summer, especially since I usually have a ton of art posts from the fine arts exhibit at the MN State Fair coming in a few weeks.

These were all taken in and around the Twin Cities metro area.  Get out and explore, and discover the art for yourself.


Monday, August 20, 2018

A Day at the Fair!

Hennepin County, the home of the city of Minneapolis, has a county fair.  It takes place usually around the weekend of Father's Day (June) in the pretty, far western Hennepin County town of Corcoran.  I've been multiple times in the last few years as my daughters got involved in 4-H.  Not only did they preform in the musical skit competition, but last year my oldest daughter made the State Fair in fine arts, and blue ribboned.  I'm a very proud dad!

I know some people are scratching their heads; 'Hennepin County has a county fair?'  It indeed does, but don't feel bad if you don't know anything about it.  It's my impression the people running the Hennepin Country Fair are not taking advantage of their biggest asset, the large county population.  They're turning their back on the majority of the county, catering the event to the thinning sliver of remaining farmland in the western part of the county, and in turn, creating an event which has fewer participants, fewer activities and events, and fewer attendees.  In a county with well over a million people, the falling attendance numbers are inexcusable and a clear sign the fair needs a new strategy.  The Hennepin County Fair is cutting off their shrinking farming community nose to spite their undeniable metropolitan face.

The suburb of Hopkins used to host the county fair, until thirty two years ago, in 1986, when they moved the fair to the western side of the county, in Corcoran.  It is a pretty drive out Bass Lake Rd., but even now the metro is creeping closer and closer to the fairgrounds; suburban subdivisions sprawling on the other side of Brockton Rd, across from the grounds.  If they truly want to have a rural county fair in the future they might end up having to move it someplace north of St. Bonifacious or to Greenfield, but even there you are only a few miles from the exploding development on the very western side of the county, and it's only going to get closer.

The Hennepin County Fair is very different than most county fairs.  Of course they have livestock and agricultural competitions, a connection to the farming society we're all dependent on, but considering the ever shrinking agricultural population of the county, it's participation is limited.  The Hennepin County Fair does have an impressive selection of 'creative activities' entrants; everything from various fine arts to advanced science projects.  Of the county fairs I've been to (and as a radio broadcaster who worked in small town America for many years, I've been to a lot) very few county fairs come close to the quality and variety of the creative activities entrants.  Even so, for a population draw as big as the county has, the amount of people participating is shockingly small.

One thing the Hennepin County Fair has less of is visitors.  They got rid of all the 'midway' rides because their attendance didn't justify the cost. They now rely on a series of 4-H run activities to keep the kids entertained.  As the fair loses popularity and visitors, it feels like their solution is to try to become even more agriculture-y, resulting in an event with limited appeal outside of the handful of farmers remaining in the metro, and their numbers are shrinking.

The crime here is that Hennepin County could have the biggest freaking country fair in the state. If they moved it back into the metro area, someplace with good visibility and easy to access, you'd end up getting a massive increase in attendance.  I'm not saying the agricultural elements of the fair should be abandoned.  ABSOLUTELY NOT! The focus on the farmer is what makes a county fair fun, but imagine if the Hennepin County Fair embraced ALL of Hennepin County.  The flower, art, fine art, design, clothes, cooking, jarring, dog, car, science, cat, dance, display and crop art competitions would be out of this world.

People in a city like Minneapolis aren't willing to travel to the outskirts of the county for a fair which is frankly not that much fun.  If you embraced the ENTIRE county (how about a hipster facial hair competition!), and made it more accessible, you'd have a attendance winner!

When I was in Portland, Oregon a few years back, they had a great example of what I was talking about.  Driving the 20 miles from my in-laws house in Washington state to Portland, you drove right past a county fair, right next to the interstate.  It was packed! My brother in law told me it was always a big success because even though the area around the interstate wasn't farms, the county keeping it in the most visible area in the county, where the population was based, allowed for massive crowds.  Now imagine a County Fair with a mini-midway visible from 394 in Minnetonka or in Golden Valley.

And the extra people coming through the gates would mean more awareness and education of agriculture as a whole.

Stop trying to deny what Hennepin County really is, pretending that turing away from the vast majority of the county is succeeding.  It may not be something you like, but Hennepin County is far more than agriculture.  Shouldn't our county fair should represent all of us?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Friday Link for 8/17/18

For the Link this week, I'll be quick as I'm officially on vacation for the next week.

Here's John Oliver's great segment on astro-turfing.  Warning - Tons of adult language!

Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Trump Top 20 Countdown for the Week of 8/6/18

Welcome to the Weekly Top 20 Countdown of Trump's ineptitude and stupidity for the week of 8/6/18 to 8/12/18.

(Who you gonna to call? SPACE FORCE!!!)

Even though this clown is supposedly on vacation, he still delivers!  These are the 20 largest chunks of incompetence coming from Trump and his Administration for this week alone.  All the things on this list should lead to ridicule, investigations, committee hearings, firings, resignations and even one or two impeachment charges.  Instead we all watch as the Republicans embody Nero, playing their fiddles while they watch Rome D.C. burn to the ground.

Quick note: the next Top 20 will be the week of September 3rd.  I'm going to enjoy the last few weeks of summer with the kiddos.

An online search will give you plenty of news options on all of these stories.  The ranking is purely on me.  Please feel free to disagree and comment why below.

On with the countdown!

20 - Trump aides are sweating out Trump's vacation week at his golf course in New Jersey.  Apparently Trump doesn't have a lot of 'structured time,' and when he's unsupervised he has a tendency of getting revved up by friends on the course.  There's potential for horrible decisions his staff will have to clean up after the fact.  "It was at Bedminster he made the decision to fire James Comey...bashed Mitch McConnell." (8/9)

19 - Trump is furious the NFL players have once again not bowed to his demands.  At some early pre-season games, multiple players knelt during the National Anthem, protesting racial injustice in America.  Trump reiterated his demand they forgo their Right to Protest and be ordered to stand up.  He accused the NFL players of not really knowing what their protesting (an absolute boldface, racially tinged lie).  Last year, after Trump threatened to destroy the NFL for allowing such protests, the NFL had their most profitable season ever.  New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan went further, calling out Trump for attacking black athletes protesting while he says nothing about neo-Nazis marching in DC this weekend. (8/10)

18 - Continuing with the bizarreness of Trump, Space Force actually looks like a thing the Administration is going to try to make happen.  Vice President Mike Pence had a policy speech where he said we can't lose 'space supremacy,' touting a military-esque version of NASA (I guess to go beat the crap out of Neptune???).  Many scientific experts and policy experts quickly trashed the idea of potentially wasting billions on a space based military force, but Trump chimed in, tweeting "Space Force all the way!"  WOW! (8/9)

17 - The Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrote an op-ed for USA Today about the wildfires in California. In the editorial, he avoids talking about climate change, and the impacts of climate change, (like the California Wildfires), instead blaming the wildfires on "radical environmentalists." (8/8)

16 - As the coal industry praises Trump, a new report states their industry was doing far better under President Obama than it is under Trump.  Coal production is still on the decline, and coal-fired plants are still closing.  The forecast is for these trends to not reverse anytime soon.  The report comes from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration; Trump's own Department of Energy.  (8/7)

15 - First Lady Melania Trump's parents have become US citizens using the EXACT same process (allowing naturalized US citizens to bring in family into the US) that Trump wants to eliminate for (non-white) naturalized US citizens. (8/9)

14 - Proving Trump is just a cruel SOB, reports are he plans on holding back the $200 million in relief aid Congress had already dedicated to Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.  The living conditions for these people is horrific, and the Israelis only allow certain countries to give Palestine aide.  This would be pretty much all of the humanitarian aid the US grants Palestinians directly, and comes on the heals of Trump's cuts in contributions to the UNRWA, the UN agency which assists Palestinian refugees.  Trump's decision to do this seems to have originated with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. (8/12)

13 - Trump attacks the FBI on Twitter (again), this time for not handing over all their files on former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to a NON-government, private conservative advocacy group, Judicial Watch.  The same man who refused to release his tax returns for review is now proposing good governance means Government agencies handing internal documents to privately run, far right conservative groups.  He then insisted the reputation of the FBI is permanently ruined. Reminder: Trump believes the FBI, as part of a grand conspiracy against him, let him WIN the election.  GENIUS! (8/11)

12 - White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway sounded like an idiot when she was asked on ABC's This Week to name an African American advisor working in the West Wing with Trump.  Asked to followup on Omarosa Manigault Newman's claims of racism in Trump's White House, Conway claimed she'd never heard anything, even though her husband was allegedly the target of Trump's racism (spoiler).  When asked about black advisors on the White House staff, she first stated Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, a person who is NOT on the West Wing staff.  She then alluded to someone named 'Jeron,' but when asked if 'Jeron' has an office in the West Wing, she admitted he actually works out of the Executive Office building, not in the West Wing.  She finally ducked away from the question by stating the host was focused on African Americans only, and that there were other minority individuals working for Trump. (8/12)

11 - Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross might be a crook, as Forbes Magazine describes him as "among the biggest grifters in American history."  A new report says he might have wrongly siphoned more than 120 million dollars from business associates.  The people cited in the investigation also say "he's a pathological liar," "pushing to the edge of truthfulness and using whatever power he has to grab assets."  They describe a man obsessed with money.  Ladies and Gentelmen, the Commerce Secretary... (8/7)

10 - Former Trump Campaign Aide and former Paul Manafort Business partner Rick Gates testified at the trial of Manafort.  Gates admitted to committing multiple crimes with Manafort, Trump's former Campaign Chariman.  He stated he and Manafort had 15(!!!) overseas accounts that weren't reported.  After being accused by Manafort's lawyers of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort, Gates did admit to cheating Manafort out of several hundred dollars via false expense reports. (8/6)

9 - Trump's Election Integrity Czar, Kris Kobach is now ignoring the findings of his own committee, findings which state there's no widespread voter fraud, voter fraud Trump and Kobach have long insisted did happen.  Kobach tried to counterpoint his own committee's finding by pointing to numerous cases of alleged voter fraud.  His co-chair, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, stated all of those alleged cases were investigated by the committee and none of them had any merit or evidence to back them up.  They were fiction, "absolutely without basis in fact." (8/6)

8 - Trump, while on his vacation, welcomed 'Bikers for Trump' to his Bedminster Golf Course in New Jersey.  Most of the rally was Trump bashing on Omarosa Manigault Newman (the former White House staffer with a book coming out) Harley Davidison motorcycles, and he repeatedly attacked the media.  No one in the Administration thought it'd be a good idea to screen the patches and tattoos of the bikers Trump posed with.  One biker right next to Trump is clearly seen with a jacket patch stating "I 💟guns and titties." (apologies if you're offended) Another one of the biker rapscallions is proudly sporting a Nazi 'SS' tattoo.  A further examination of this bikers Facebook page(?) shows a man with proud ties to the Nazis.  That man was allowed on the stage.  Trump a day earlier, a year after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally which left one woman dead, stated he has no tolerance for racism. Apparently he does tolerate it, as long as it's on a biker standing next to him. (8/11)

7 - Once again, considering the messenger I'd be careful about taking this for fact, but there are more allegations coming from former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, as she gets ready to release her new book.  Omarosa claims Trump has made racist comments about staff and their family while in the White House, particularly going after Kellyanne Conway's husband.  She claims she believes there are tapes of Trump using the N-Word for African American on the set of his TV show The Apprentice.  She also claimed she was offered $15,000 per month (180K per year) to keep her mouth shut in regards to Trump and his activities on both the TV show and in the White House, with the offer being presented to her by Eric (Tweedle Dum) Trump's wife, Lara Trump.  The money would've come from the Trump re-election campaign.  While the racism in the White House has been known, as well as the rumor of racist comments made by Trump on the Apprentice, it's the $15K which has some people's attention. Trump's former bodyguard Keith Schiller is also getting $15K a month, but his money is being routed through the RNC.  Questions on whether Schiller's $15K is to keep his mouth shut haven't be answered.  White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders states Omarosa's entire book is lies. (8/10)

6 - As expected, China has lashed back at the US with new tariffs on a wide variety of US products.  The total of new tariffs from China is around 16 billion.  The products affected are cars and crude oil products, like grease, asphalt and vaseline.  An interesting stat shows imports to the US from China are pretty much staying the same, and Chinese exports as a whole (worldwide) are actually increasing.  While China has yet to feel the real pain of US tariffs, many US industries are already being hurt by Trump's unnecessary and foolish trade war.  Due directly to Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum, a South Carolina TV assembly plant is closing down entirely.  The plant's management did not mix words, claiming their closure is a direct response to Trump's tariffs. (8/7-8)

5- Trump has decided to get into a border dispute with Canada.  Mathias Seal Island is a Canadian island off the coast of Maine.  There are no trees on the 20 acre sliver of land, only a lighthouse with a few people operating it.  The waters around the island have traditionally been both countries to work, but US border agents are detaining Canadian lobster boats who are found in US waters around the Canadian Island, and the US is stopping Canadian bird watching groups from visiting the island.  This harassment, which has never happened before, began after Trump and Trudeau sparred at the G7 Summit. (8/11)

4- After a near disastrous night of primaries, special elections and ballot questions for Republicans, Trump brags about the outcome and insists he went 5 for 5 for Tuesday's Primary Election Day.  The reality, the Republicans look like they BARELY held onto a +7 R House seat in the OH12 district, a seat they won by 135,000 votes only 20 months ago, a seat they had to outspend the Democrats 3 to 1, not including the dark money advantage.  Also an anti-union bill was firmly trounced in Missouri, not exactly a liberal stronghold.  Most experts point to Tuesday being an ominous sign for the Republicans for November, with speculation being that 40-60 GOP seats might end up in Democrat hands.  Still Trump claimed victory, especially in primary elections where he endorsed a handful of candidates.  It's unclear if he understands the primaries only mean the winner is the official GOP candidate come November, not that they are the overall winner. (8/8)

3 - The reunification of immigrant children with their parents is at a stand still, as the federal government isn't having a lot of luck locating the parents they deported before their children were given back to them.  In the last week, the number of children under US care has only dropped slightly from 572 to 559.  The government is whining because apparently it's hard to locate people they've thrown out the country.  One might say they probably shouldn't have shipped them off without their kids, but then again, they probably shouldn't have ripped the kids away from the parents in the first place. (8/10)

2 - Omarosa Manigault Newman is proving be a massive headache for Trump's White House.  On Meet the Press, she played for the show a secret audio recording she made of her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly.  When asked if she was being fired or forced to resign, Kelly clearly downplayed the firing.  Kelly also put a threat out; "Things can get ugly for you."  Omarosa says this proves the story of her running around the White Hosue after she was fired was false.  On a separate but far more concerning note, the same people furious about Hillary Clinton's email issues seem to have no problem with someone smuggling a personal cell phone into a (supposedly) secure, intelligence sensitive area of the White House, AND said individual was able to record.  That's an astounding breach of US security.  Earlier, Omarosa had told TMZ many staffers in the White House are having sex.  When the name Hope Hicks was brought up, a woman who is closely tied to Trump, she just smiled and left. (8/12)

1 - The real death toll for Hurricane Maria has been released; 1427.  This after the Trump Administration kept insisting only 64 people had died on the hurricane ravaged island.  This number includes people who died during the storm and people who died of storm related issues for up to a few months after the storm struck. (8/9)

Just on Trump's failures in Puerto Rico alone we should throw his worthless caboose out of office.

Sometimes this gets so damn need to find your happy place.

#2018IsEverything.  The Minnesota Primaries are over.  Tim Walz, Tina Smith, and Ilhan Omar are some of the winners.  Focus your attention on the main prize in November.  Vote Blue and we'll start pulling the United States back from the brink.  More Countdowns in a few weeks.