Coming Attractions: Last Tango In Strasbourg

Like Bogart & Bacall or Tracy & Hepburn, Jean-Claude Juncker & Theresa May are better together. Now they explode across the screen as you’ve never seen them before!

(right-click to enlarge)

Two bored escapists find themselves thrown together in a room, as reality recedes around them, and only their fantasies are real. They meet, and part forever… only to begin the cycle again with renewed passion. The film’s raw portrayal of hard line negotiations resulted in varying degrees of censorship around the world. Now this newly restored version reveals the shocking relationship between two lost souls — as different as night and day, yet somehow drawn together — from every possible angle.

“A landmark in movie history” — The New Yorker

“One of the most important cinematic achievements” — Le Journal Du Dimanche

“This movie is more vile than Doctor Who, if such a thing were possible” — Mary Whitehouse

“We applaud the innovative use of dairy products” — Dairy Association of America

If there’s one movie you see this year, it must be Last Tango In Strasbourg.

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The Brexit Unicorn – Doctor Who vs. Boris Johnson

That pesky Brexit Unicorn has been sighted again! Is it real or a legend? Should we believe in it? Who would think up a crazy notion like this? And in a contest of wits, who will win: Doctor Who or Boris Johnson?

BREAKING: The Bear & Staff changes its name to The Brexit Unicorn:

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Brexit: Irish Backstop For Dummies (video)

With a little help from The Cranberries, and footage from the People’s Vote March, London, 3-23-2019

In my (literally) fevered brain, I’ve been searching for a way to make a statement about the People’s Vote March, the Irish Backstop, and the seeming lack of concern among politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg over the violence which could ensue in Northern Ireland if things aren’t handled just right. This is it:

Full screen it for best effect, and choose 720p. Any problem with the embedded video, try this Dropbox link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/96u0is2hoka9gdr/Irish%20Backstop%20For%20Dummies.mkv

I also made an animated GIF for added exposure:

During peacetime, we don’t recognize how fragile and precious peace is, and how easily the peace can be lost. To use a stupid pop analogy, it’s like a game of Jenga, where removing the United Kingdom from the European Union may cause a chain reaction which sends the Towers of Peace crumbling.

In the video, different media sources are blended to create an ironic commentary in the guise of a “for dummies” book, with British MP Jacob Rees-Mogg cast in the role of dummy (or zombie). The French version of “for dummies” is “pour les Nuls,” as was kindly explained to me 20 years ago by my then workmate Virginie Ducrot.

During the time of the “Troubles,” a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was a source of constant fighting in which thousands died, including innocent children. Then the Good Friday Agreement established an open border and fighting ended. Yet, the same forces still exist in Northern Ireland today, and might easily be re-ignited by Brexit. But the Brexiteers gave no thought to the Irish border, and don’t take seriously the need to avoid a hard border at all cost. What’s in their heads?

The Cranberries’ music video “Zombie” was banned by the BBC. It’s not hard to understand why. It’s one of those pieces of art that forces you to confront difficult issues. At first, I worried that the Crucifixion theme was sacrilegious. But while some of the imagery is garish, it makes the powerful point that innocent children are being crucified, and the consciousness behind this killing is not noble or heroic — it’s more in the nature of a gnawing spirit of hatred that knows no mercy.

This January marked the one year anniversary of Dolores O’Riordan’s tragic death at the too young age of 46. Her song “Zombie” transcended the Irish Troubles and became an anthem decrying senseless violence between warring tribes wherever it occurs — from Bosnia to Rwanda. As she hailed from Limerick, I offer her this sincere tribute:

There was a young girl named Dolores,
Who echoed a powerful chorus;
She protested the killing,
And in Heaven, God willing
She’ll put in a goodly word for us.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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Scott Pruitt Epitaph

Like bad meat, the freshness date on Scott Pruitt’s tenure as EPA chief has finally expired. This epitaph rings true in more ways than one:

Though Pruitt had something of a reputation as a chicken-plucker, ironically it’s Rudy Giuliani who’s now running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Apparently, Mueller has to prove he’s not a Blue Fairy from Fairyland before Trump will deign to sit down with him for an interview. Would love to see Mueller let fly with a subpoena!

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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Only the King of Fools can pardon himself…

…for being a buffoon!

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. No cathedrals were harmed during the making of this post. No soup of any kind was thrown at any person.

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Forbes magazine unveils Stock Talk with Stormy Daniels

Stock Talk for March 27, 2018

After flaccid performance in the fourth quarter, Canadian Codpiece spanked investors with yet more losses this week, but promised textbook generic earnings next quarter after taking write-offs related to their discontinued line of orange skin bronzer.

In other news, just did my first interview with high-yield bond manager Jeffrey Kociniwicz and can describe his junk perfectly.

After a huge stock market run-up, some investors may find their portfolios are top-heavy, with too many high beta tech stocks and not enough good little earners. Diversifying into high-yield bonds may be just the shot of Viagra you need to firm up your portfolio and keep your masthead erect while sailing into uncharted waters, with inflation visible on the horizon. Remember, Mr. Fed Chair, we need a slow hand!

I’ll be in Parsippany, New jersey this weekend, continuing my series of seminars on women and investing. The theme of this week’s presentation will be “My cup runneth over…”

Till then, for Steve Forbes and the whole Forbes family, this is Stormy Daniels reminding you to shake that money maker!

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Schiller’s Ode To Trump (rude song parody)

Keith Schiller, Trump’s former body man, testified before Congress last week. He sang, but not quite in the expected manner. Giving it a Beethovenian blush, his testimony went something like this:

Schiller’s Ode To Trump (libretto)

All these rumors are mistaken,
Don’t believe the dossier;
True, the Russians offered playmates,
But the Donald would not play.

Allen Menschen have their foibles,
All are steeped in Kompromat;
Trumpster is my Daddy Warbucks,
I will be his laundromat.

(Joined by a chorus of Congressional Republicans)
Allen Menschen have their foibles,
All are steeped in Kompromat;
Trumpster is our Daddy Warbucks,
We will be his laundromat.
His laundromat, his laundromat!

(Soloists)
Never was a ruffle,
No behaviour unbehoovia;
No sign of those naughty ladies,
No trace of effluvia.

(Chorus)
Never was a ruffle,
No behaviour unbehoovia;
No sign of those naughty ladies,
No trace of effluvia.
Effluvia, effluvia!

Known to be a celibate
From Texas to Tralfamadore,
Donald Trump is Mr. Clean
And I’m the one who mops the floor.

Hailed as a gentleman
Who only plays with shuttlecocks,
Donald is my president
And I will wash his dirty socks.

(Chorus)
His dirty socks, his dirty socks,
Yes we will wash his dirty socks!

Trumpster is a little lamb,
No girl would need a chaperone;
Leaving off the time that he
Had coitus with a Sousaphone.

(Chorus)
A Sousaphone, a Sousaphone,
Had coitus with a Sousaphone!

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Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. No Sousaphones were harmed in the making of this post.

Donald Trump: Latest Parody Pic

Viewing the pic and discussing some Photoshop techniques

donald-trump-twelve-days-of-trumpster-by-michael-howard

Donald Trump – The Twelve Days of Trumpster

I’ve been slaving away in Photoshop to bring you a new Donald Trump parody pic, this one combining the Big Brother and Twelve Days of Christmas themes. I’ve already posted the lyrics here, but the new pic adds something special. In the argot of the song, it boasts a:

Big Brother head,
Big groping hands,
And an eagle in an Aryan meme.

If you’re sick of seeing alt-right depictions of Donald Trump as Norse God and Emperor of Europe, this parody may give you a chuckle. (“Look to the sleigh / See the Donaldus — Oy veh!”)

Regular readers of my blog know that I sometimes get obsessed with Photoshop, which is actually a good way to get stuff done. Despite its comic intent, this piece demonstrates some useful Photoshop techniques.

If you’re just getting started with Photoshop, one of the best things you can do is just look — look carefully at the elements which make a good composition. Here you can look at the lines which draw the viewer’s attention toward the center of the picture. In your mind’s eye, draw a line from the cat’s hindmost paw to the standing reindeer’s top antler. This is the main line unifying the different figures.

Note also the contrast between the saturated colours in the body of Trump, and the outsized head which “pops” because it’s grayscale. Also note how some areas of the composition are crowded with detail, while others give a much needed sense of space.

If you want to create montages in Photoshop, it’s good to work your way through the exercises in Photoshop tutorials so that you’re fluent with the techniques. One book that really helped me a lot was The Photoshop Wow! Book, which includes beautiful and artistic examples that make you really want to learn the techniques.

Once you have some technique under your belt, get creative with layers, masking, and blending modes. Always ask “What if?” and don’t be afraid to experiment. When making changes, save your work frequently.

When you get into a groove with Photoshop, you’ll find that amazing things happen! A strong technical foundation means you can use your intuition to lead you in a good direction, without having to think everything through.

Is the central figure standing or sitting? Well… both! The standing figure seems to be wearing a blue tie, but as your eyes follow the tie down, it seems to culminate in a belt buckle worn by the sitting figure. The Christmas wreath has two red bows hanging down, and these look as though they’re draped on the knees of the sitting figure.

Effects like these can be achieved using layers, layer masks, and blending modes like Overlay and Luminosity. Sometimes you may like an effect but find that it’s too extreme or that you only want it to appear in part of an image. You can reduce the opacity of a layer, or add a layer mask and paint on it with white or black paint to “brush in” the effect exactly where you want it.

Before starting work in Photoshop, I spent a long time collecting a “morgue” of Donald Trump and Christmas images, not really knowing what I would end up using. Eventually, viewing the collected images, some ideas began to take shape in my mind. Then I started doing rough drafts in Photoshop — refining the basic composition, then taking things to the next level with outrageous layer effects.

I hope these ideas inspire you to explore your own creativity using Photoshop or similar image-editing software.

Michael Howard
The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Defringe Your Cat

Some people declaw or even neuter their cat. If you’re a Photoshopper, you want to be sure and defringe your cat. In the best of possible worlds, I would like to have done a better job removing the green fringe from around the outline of the cat. But at some point you have to consider a work finished. After all, this one isn’t destined for the Sistine Chapel!

Margaret and Gillian Series

Three recoloured photographs from my archives

Margaret and Gillian 1

Margaret and Gillian 1

Margaret and Gillian 2

Margaret and Gillian 2

Margaret and Gillian 3

Margaret and Gillian 3

I did these quite a few years ago, using Painter 5, Photoshop 5, and Paint Alchemy. It was nice to be reminded of them by an old friend — the husband of Margaret and father of Gillian, who also took the original photos.

Please do right-click, open in a new tab, and click again to see each image full size, where the interplay of colours and textures becomes more evident.

Barack Obama Song Now On YouTube

Barack Obama farewell tribute video

Whew! Finally finished work on the video and posted it to YouTube. Makes it easy to learn the song, plus I spiced up the intro with some painterly effects and an Obama speech excerpt:

It’s 720p, so if you click on the embedded video’s title bar (upper left), you can watch it on YouTube and choose 720p full screen.

For more about the inspiration behind the song and its meaning, please see “Gratitude to President Obama.” If you sing this song in a big space like a cathedral, you’ll notice the echo effect when you get to the Grand Canyon part. 😉 This song is not so funky and poppish, but is better suited to a church choir. Try singing it in rounds!

If you care about the technical aspects, media tools used include:

Dynamic Auto Painter
Adobe Photoshop
Finale
Audacity
Wavelab
XMedia Recode
Corel VideoStudio 12
Xvid codec
LAME MP3 codec

The versions of these tools used were fairly ancient, running on an old Pentium 4 single-core computer with Windows XP.

The introduction, where you see a quick montage of painterly images, is based on using Dynamic Auto Painter to create variations. The final image in that sequence is a composite done in Photoshop which combines parts from different versions, plus a snippet of sheet music. The still images were then brought into Video Studio and crossfaded.

I’m a big fan of gestural brushstrokes, so if you open this image in a new tab and view it full screen, you’ll see lots of details that otherwise might pass you by.

Photoshop obsession is an affliction affecting many modern persons. It can be cured through your generous contributions to the Get-A-Life Fund. 🙂

Brushing aside all that technology, the core inspiration for the song was Sri Chinmoy, who wrote thousands upon thousands of songs, many of them honouring the people he knew or met, great or small, from many nations, of different beliefs, but often sharing a longing for world harmony.

Michael Howard

Of Further Interest

Portrait of Sri Chinmoy
Janaka Alan Spence: We Live in Hope

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Trump Your Pumpkin!

Announcing the winner and runner-up in the YouTube contest to carve a place in political history.

 

Orange is the colour of my Trumpkin’s head
In the mornin’ when we rise…

Donovan

The last of the costumes have been put back in mothballs; the last of the vomit has been cleaned up off your parents’ coffee table; but there’s still one Halloween ritual left to perform: the all-important Judging of the Trumpkin Videos!

One meme begets another, so just when Trump Your Cat was starting to seem stale as old kitty-litter, along comes Halloween, and with it Trump Your Pumpkin.

We’ve sifted through more YouTubes than you can shake a femur at, scooped out the seedy ones, and baked the two finalists into a blogger’s pie for your delectation.

The Runner-Up

Deserving mucho appreciation for all the work that went into it, “It’s The Great Trumpkin!” is a parody of the classic Charlie Brown Halloween special:

The children’s voices are remarkably convincing, and I love seeing Snoopy as an illegal immigrant skulking across the border in the dead of night.

The Winner

Called “Donald Trumpkin Is Making Halloween Great Again,” the winning video is a fast-paced survey of nearly ten entries in the field, ending with a Trump Halloween mask made by a shop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, plus an interview with the proprietor. Viva El Trumpkin!

What The Future Holds

If the Trump Your Pumpkin meme should ever ring hollow, I’m confident that others may be unearthed. Perhaps actor Charles Laughton holds the key! (At least, that’s my hunch…)

donald-trump-your-hump

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. No pumpkins were harmed during the making of this post.

Greenspan Bobblehead Shocks Nervous Britons – UPDATE

Why’d the Beeb do it?

alan-greenspan-BBCFriday was a day of well-rounded insanity for the United Kingdom, with reverberations felt ’round the Western world and some parts East. The pent-up demand for faux freedom led to renewed cries of Texit! (Texas seceding from the United States) and Sexit! (Slovenia seceding from the European Union). Probably when the dust settles, it will be found that the appetite for such changes is less real than imagined. But the present period is one for calming of waters and not further exciting residents of Blighty. So it was exceeding strange when a BBC interview with former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan which should have had a palliative effect instead took on an air of the shocking and surreal.

The interview had been scheduled in advance, but Mr. Greeenspan came down with a head cold. Yet, it is well known that the mere manner in which he snaps his briefcase can soothe troubled markets, and when the Nagus himself appears, the effect is all but narcotic.

Rather than cancel the interview or conduct it purely by telephone, the Beeb elected to put up a bobblehead of Mr. Greenspan, just as one might prop up a stuffed animal to comfort a young child waking from a nightmare.

The bobblehead is, of course, a uniquely American institution, born of fan giveaways at baseball stadiums, but occasionally extended to non-sport VIPs like Pope Francis. There are relatively few bobbleheads of economists, and after careful consideration I conclude that this is for good not ill. Economists are best left to work behind the scenes rather than gracing car dashboards and curio shops. Just one look at the Alan Greenspan bobblehead should persuade doubting readers of the verity of my thesis:

The Alan Greenspan bobblehead

The Alan Greenspan bobblehead

Suffice it to say, the calming effect yearned for was not in evidence among BBC viewers, who flooded the switchboard with complaints that much as they love their Doctor Who, now was not the time to be showcasing the latest monster dreamt up by children writing in to Blue Peter — a possible successor to the Abzorbaloff.

When queried about the cock-up, the characteristically brusque Jeremy Paxman — called out of retirement to conduct the interview — replied, “No comment.” To restore public order, the Beeb enlisted Basil Brush to help explain what Brexit would mean to the average Briton:

basil-brush-youre-screwed-animEnhanced security was put in place at retirement homes over concerns that young people might blame seniors for sabotaging their future plans for free travel and a united Europe:

old-people-walking-animFears of atonal music and riots in the streets prompted the Beeb to temporarily revert to a schedule of old-time programming with more reassuring presenters offering lessons in post-Brexit economics:

(I wonder: Is Oswald The Ostrich an appropriate meme for those voting “Leave”?)

Once calm was restored, plans for a Nouriel Roubini bobblehead were quickly scrapped — as was the Greenspan bobblehead. There are rumours of a Richard Dawkins bobblehead, but as yet no one believes in its existence, and the so-called ‘Bobblehead Delusion’ is being roundly scoffed at by cynics.

The Home Secretary is said to be working closely with the BBC’s head boffin to carve out a new policy on bobbleheads — one that doesn’t ban their use outright, but does flash a brief disclaimer so that epileptics and those easily succumbing to fits of hysterical laughter are properly forewarned.

Jeremy Paxman on Alan Greenspan

“Tomorrow’s Greenspan: more of the same! I don’t know why they make such a fuss about it.”

extra-credit-projectThough public viewing of Alan Greenspan bobbleheads may cause mass insanity, individual viewing in the home may have a beneficial effect, not unlike a mild emetic. You can spend a pleasant rainy afternoon assembling your own Alan Greenspan craft project out of pipe cleaners, Silly Putty, head cheese, and India ink. Here’s how:

First, make a flower out of different coloured pipe cleaners. Next, cut and trim the head cheese to fit inside the flower. Then shape a slab of Silly Putty to form a smaller concentric circle inside the head cheese. Finally, use India ink to draw Alan Greenspan’s head on the Silly Putty. (Be careful not to spill the ink!)

When you’re done, you’ll have a valuable curio which you can treasure in years to come. It also makes a great gift for an economist, parole officer, or that special someone in your life.

blue-peter-badgealan-greenspan-craft-project-by-michael-howard

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