Uncle Oscar’s Birthday

Well, that didn’t go exactly like I thought it would. I had this entry half drafted Sunday afternoon, speculating on the culturally tragic implications of The Revenant winning Best Picture and sweeping most of the Academy Awards, but there were quite a few surprises, weren’t there?

8uncleoscarIt was Uncle Oscar’s birthday, and like going to that family dinner, you love it and dread it simultaneously. You love Aunt Sadie’s meatballs, but her inappropriate comments make you cringe. Your cousin corners you about some business venture or cause that bores you to tears or requires a donation. It will go on too long with too much bland food, and you know you’re going to fight with your spouse on the drive there and on the way home. And yet you’d never miss it.

Results notwithstanding, my original question is worth asking: Is it a crime against humanity or a travesty of justice if the Best Picture of the year is a movie you didn’t particularly like? Or one which, from the moment you saw the trailer, you had no interest in seeing? Is the Best Picture the “best picture” artistically or popularly, or sometimes one and sometimes the other?

As the 88th Academy Awards unfolded, I wondered if the movies I happen to like would get the recognition they so clearly deserve in the World According to ME or if those cretinous voters would demonstrate that they were drugged out of their mind or kidnapped by Moonies. My answer, as with most years, is probably a little of both.

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The Most Awesomest Graphs in the World

When I was poking around on Valentine’s Day, I came across the coolest mathematical pictures to illustrate love. It got me thinking about how visually representing the information that we want to convey is so important.  Now, I totally dig numbers. And I dig artwork. I took that test this week on whether you are more left or right brained, and I scored a 53 – ambi-brained. My undergraduate study was equal measures of English Literature and Accounting, but that shouldn’t be surprising. I worked with many excellent banking and finance professionals who had degrees in English, Religious Studies, Music, Art History, and Humanities. People who analyze often appreciate the aesthetic beauty of analysis for its own sake.

Hence, it’s no surprise that pictures of numbers and data can be inherently beautiful. For example, I found this one posted by Utsav Goyal,  named “The Love Function.”  LoveFn

Change one of those squares to a 3 or a 1, and you’ve just got a squiggle. There are also tons of beautiful patterns in the natural world – the whole science of fractals blossomed a few decades ago to show just that. The Greeks understood the connection of beauty in math and aesthetics as they were passionate about both. Aristotle, for instance, coined the concept of the Golden Mean, a ratio in nature which would reveal everything from the structure of a nautilus shell to a rose to the human ear.

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An Opera Lesson

How ‘bout that Super Bowl and those ____? Wasn’t that play amazing when _______ the ball and then ______ took it in the end zone for the touchdown? Of course, the commercial by _________ was kind of stupid and offensive, but I sure liked the one about the dog ____. [Note to self: remember to fill in blanks after the game is over.]

Speaking of grand and potentially ridiculous spectacles, I’ve been studying opera this month. This is the time of year when the NY Metropolitan Opera provides live showings in local movie theaters, and they are a huge treat. Not only is the singing the world’s best, but the sets and costumes are fabulous, and the intermission interviews very entertaining. Think of it like boxing pay per view. It’s not exactly like being in person, but you can see a lot better and it’s much less expensive (especially excluding the Vegas flight and hotel).

Now, if anyone actually knows something about opera (which means you probably know far more than I), please correct me gently as I share my recently learned wiki-facts. For the few of you who might consider it but have shied away due to lack of knowledge; let me see if I can spark interest. And if you still detest the thought, I can at least give you a few buzz words and factoids to sprinkle in conversations. Continue reading “An Opera Lesson”