Coloring Historical Photographs - February 13th, 2021, Edition

A year ago I made one of my first attempts a colorizing a photo, and the results were not very good. The photo in question was a boyhood photo of my father-in-law, Terry Wetmore, and the final outcome of my colorization efforts was so bad that I'd rather not share it publicly.

However, I've colorized a few dozen photos since then, and I've picked up a few skills along the way. With that in mind, I thought that I would take another pass at his photo to see if I could do a better job the second time around, and here are the results.

Terry-Wetmore-Boyhood-Photo-before-and-after

This image is certainly better than last year's attempt, but I still have lots of room for improvement. I think I'll try again after another year or so to see what the results are like.

Abuses and Autocrats, Dissenters and Dictators, Orwell and Oligarchs

The Editorial Board at the New York Times recently posted an article named Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe, which brings up an interesting subject that I'd like to discuss. As anyone who grew up in America is aware, our system of government was created with a distribution of power between three branches: Executive (President), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court). The original intent of the Executive branch as detailed in the Constitution was to enforce the laws that were created by the Legislative branch, while the job of interpreting those laws was assigned to the Judicial branch. Over the years, each President has ramped up the use of Executive Orders, which have increasingly had the same affect as laws, without having to go through the long process of Congressional debate within the Legislative branch as originally designed by the framers of our Constitution. In other words, the use of Executive Orders has overextended the intended role and reach of the Presidency and bypassed Congress. To be clear, this behavior includes both Obama and Trump.

However, throughout the Trump presidency, the common response by mainstream news outlets was that each Executive Order issued by Trump during his four years in office was a "dictatorial" abuse of power. Many of these scathing condemnations of Trump's behavior led to the inevitable comparisons between Trump and Hitler, which were - of course - completely ludicrous to anyone with a basic study of European history. (In my opinion, Mussolini might have been a better comparison, but I digress.) That being said, Biden's unceasing willingness to issue Executive Orders since taking office last week has thus far exceeded every other presidents' abuse of that particular "Executive Privilege." And yet, with the notable exception of the Times editorial that I mentioned in my opening statement, the general response of mainstream media has been applause - or silence - despite being the closest manifestation of a true "dictatorial abuse of power."

As we have seen in the rise of dictators throughout history and around the globe, "abuse" is never labeled as such by those who support the dictator and/or stand to benefit from said dictator's consolidation of power. As I mentioned earlier, our forefathers specifically founded a republic with three branches of government as a system of checks and balances in order to prevent what Biden is doing; that is to say, a single branch calling all the shots. Biden is ignoring Congress in his systemic alterations of the American political landscape, and those who spent four years loathing Trump are plodding happily along in their antipathy for their common enemy (Trump), while ignoring the fact that they are tacitly approving and condoning the very behavior to which they had vehemently objected in the very recent past. Tragically, now that the Biden administration has begun its investigations into restructuring the Supreme Court (see Biden starts staffing a commission on Supreme Court reform), the Biden administration is literally trying to find a way to bypass the last remaining hurdle to consolidating the power to govern unchecked and with impunity from a single branch of government.

I am reminded of the Triumvirate in the Republic of Ancient Rome, in which three leaders were chosen to share power and prevent an individual leader from singularly holding the reins of government. And yet, during the Triumvirate of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, one of the three was unhappy with the concept of serving with a balance of power, so he did away with the other two. This person was - of course - Gaius Julius Caesar, who appointed himself "dictator for life," thereby ending the Republic of Rome, and instituting the Imperial Age of Rome, wherein the will of the people was supplanted by the dictatorial rule of emperors. In recent years we have seen how modern dictators have followed similar paths; they gain the support of the people, and once their power is secured, they do away with anyone who can challenge their authority. (Think of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin in the USSR/Russia for a one such example from the 20th century.)

With that in mind, we now see ourselves tipping precipitously on the edge of our own decline into autocracy, and yet there are millions of people who approve of the person who is exhibiting behavior that would be viewed as totalitarian if it was occurring elsewhere around the planet (think of Putin and Navalny in modern Russia). Our populace has millions of willing and unwitting accomplices who are rejoicing in their ignorance as their own downfall looms quietly and ominously in the not-too-distant future. It is a truly frightening time when people's incessant loathing for anything to which they object has blinded them to the very real threats to their personal freedoms. At the risk of violating Godwin's Law, this lust for power is the reason why Communists and Nazis invented "enemies of the people" in order to rally the mob in support of their consolidation of authority. We now have people who are publicly proclaiming that non-Liberals need to be "deprogrammed" (see So Many Great, Educated, Functional People Were Brainwashed: Can Trump’s Cult of Followers Be Deprogrammed?); that should strike fear in every citizen of this country. A difference of opinion does NOT justify the tyrannical brainwashing of opposing viewpoints into blind obedience and acceptance.

There was a time in this country where George Orwell's vision in "1984" of bludgeoning freedom of thought into a love for "Big Brother" was political fantasy; however, it is readily apparent that compulsory obedience to Big Brother is no longer a fable. What's more, the current trends by the social justice warrior crowd to rewrite history combined with the cooperation between mainstream/social media and tech giants to actively censor contrarian perspectives sounds an awful lot like Orwell's concept of a "Ministry of Truth," wherein "truth" is what the Party says is true, and dissenting opinion is overtly suppressed. Now that Orwell's fiction is slowly becoming fact, it is disconcerting to see the number of accomplices who line up as willing participants. The Communists had a term for these people: "Useful Idiots." From my perspective, I think that is a perfectly appropriate term for any willing participant in the dismantling of a democratic republic in favor of authoritarianism and despotism.

1984-Big-Brother

Coloring Historical Photographs - January 16th Edition

I found another interesting photo in an aviation forum that looked like a good candidate for colorizing, in this case it was the crew of the "Blue Dreams" B-17, which looks like they're celebrating after a successful mission.

B17-Blue-Dreams-Before-and-After

As I have done in the past, I tried to discover any information that I could about this photo or the aircraft. The best that I could do was to find a page that mentioned the ball turret gunner having completed 25 missions in this aircraft. In World War II, that usually meant the crew would rotate stateside, and for his sake I hope that happened.

That being said, I found another web page that mentioned the aircraft as having completed 29 missions before it crashed. The pilot noticed that the aircraft was leaking fuel after takeoff, and he set the aircraft down without lowering the landing gear. The aircraft was a total loss, but the crew was able to escape without harm. Still - that was a sad fate for a beautiful aircraft.

Imagine there's no Lennon

I often see people quoting John Lennon's song "Imagine," but I have often wondered - have any of these people really listened to the lyrics to that song? Because it probably represents a worldview that they do not agree with.

Let me explain...

VERSE 1 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

VERSE 1 MEANING:

When Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven," he is pushing for the abolition of religion because he was an outspoken atheist and HATED the church. He was infamous for pelting nuns in NYC with water balloons fashioned from condoms and preaching that he was more popular than Jesus.

When Lennon says, "No hell below us," he is dreaming of a life where he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions; e.g. there is no concept of "sin," which he reinforces by saying, "Imagine all the people living for today." This describes Lennon's life as a drug and alcohol addict who routinely cheated on his wife and ignored his children. The definition of hedonism is living for today, and Lennon lived in that mindset, regardless of who suffered for his selfishness.

VERSE 2 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

VERSE 2 MEANING:

There are a few things to consider here:

First of all, it's easy for Lennon to imagine what life would be like if all of the borders suddenly ceased to exist because he lived in a life of luxury surrounded by opulent wealth for which he didn't really have to work. Don't get me wrong, the Beatles were amazing songwriters, but still - consult the lyrics to the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits to see what I mean.

Jumping past that, Lennon reiterates his call for the abolition of religion, which I am sure most of the world would disagree with.

Last, Lennon advocates for peace, but it's probably not your definition of "peace." Throughout his life Lennon shared his views on peace, which isn't just the absence of war, but a continuation of his hedonistic mindset; he wants everyone do lay down their arms and then live for themselves, which is selfish and immature, but that is who Lennon was. (For more on Lennon's warped views of peace, see my "Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?" blog.)

VERSE 3 LYRICS:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

VERSE 3 MEANING:

Once again, this is one of those verses that sounds palatable, until you examine Lennon's personal life. As I said earlier, it's easy for someone surrounded by opulent wealth to wax poetic about what a glorious world it would be if everyone shared everything, because he can afford to buy whatever he wants. If Lennon had set an example of philanthropic endeavors during his lifetime for others to emulate, then perhaps I would give him a little credit here, but he didn't; Lennon was a boorish, womanizing, selfish, drug addict.

That being said, Lennon was a Marxist, and Communism has demonstrated time and again that a society cannot share everything; it just doesn't work, because people are greedy at heart. There is no way that everyone on the planet can share everything because sooner or later someone will want something that someone else has, and then they'll fight. That is inevitable, and Lennon practiced this type of covetousness all the time by sleeping with whomever he pleased - even if it was other people's wives. What's more, Lennon was awful to his own family members; he couldn't even share with them, much less the rest of the world.

CHORUS LYRICS:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

CHORUS MEANING:

So what is Lennon asking you to join? In no uncertain terms, Lennon is asking you to join a cult. His cult. In Lennon's cult of hedonism, everyone lives for themselves, religion is illegal, and he can continue to do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants while everyone else is forced to live by his standards and share everything that they worked hard to earn. While Lennon uses flowery words like "peace" and "brotherhood," make no mistake - Lennon's view of utopia is a heaven on earth for him that would be a living hell on earth for everyone else.

At the end of the day, John Lennon was a deeply flawed and selfish individual who should not be emulated. In his Magnum Opus, "Imagine," Lennon is not really advocating for "peace" or "brotherhood" or any of the other noble ideals that people so often ascribe to him. Instead, Lennon is advocating for everyone on the planet to be just like him; to fill their lives with self-indulgent excesses and to ignore any possible ramifications from their bad lifestyle choices. The people who have followed Lennon's example have helped proliferate decades of drug and alcohol abuse, leaving broken families with emotionally damaged children, and lead to the astronomical rise in STDs and AIDs. All of this is probably why "Imagine" is so popular with Hollywood elites who consistently follow Lennon's example of living for themselves. Nevertheless, neither Lennon nor "Imagine" should be admired; it is a terrible song from a terrible person about a terrible world that was crushed and rebuilt according to Lennon's terrible worldview. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Arnold's Opinions are Terminated

I have mentioned in multiple places that the people who physically attacked our nation's Capitol this week were traitors and they need to be prosecuted as such. However, I would like to say a few words with regard to Mr. Schwarzenegger's comments in the following video.

There is a modern concept called Godwin's Law, which is generally defined as: "the longer that an Internet discussion continues, the probability of a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis increases proportionately." As soon as this comparison happens in most discussions, the person who makes the comparison is usually regarded as having lost the debate. The primary reason why this is assumed by all participants in the discussion is: if you cannot defend your position without resorting to ridiculous and implausible comparisons, then you're a poor communicator, and everyone SHOULD consider you a loser.

With that in mind, I'd like to state that Mr. Schwarzenegger needs to restudy his history, because his comparison to Kristallnacht was grossly inaccurate and utterly preposterous. For those who are unaware, Kristallnacht was the far-reaching destruction of thousands of Jewish businesses across Germany, resulting in the kidnapping of tens of thousands of Jews who were deported to concentration camps. Whereas during this week's traitorous activities, no one was carted off to concentration camps. No one lost their families, their livelihoods, or their property.

Please don't misunderstand, the traitors who broke into our Capitol are the wicked scum of the earth, but the events of this week and the events of Kristallnacht are so far apart that their comparison is beyond ludicrous. The actions of this week's traitors were shameful, but so were Mr. Schwarzenegger's comparisons to the Nazis. Therefore, in keeping with Godwin's Law, Mr. Schwarzenegger loses this debate.

Mr. Schwarzenegger may be correct in his assessment of Trump as a "failed leader," but then again - I seem to recall that Schwarzenegger's tenure as governor ended with him as as a "failed leader." Perhaps it takes one to know one, but either way - I'll end with this: Go home, Arnold. Your relevance in public politics is over.

An Open Letter to President Trump

Starting from one month before the election, I had made a personal vow to abstain from weighing in on the election - regardless of the outcome. Oh sure, I took potshots and anti-maskers and COVID-deniers, but for the most part I tried to say nothing about the actual election. However, in light of the anarchy that took place today in Washington DC, I think it's time to break my silence. And with that in mind, here goes:

 

Dear President Trump,

It's time for you to go. There was an election - and you lost. You filed protests - and you lost. You were given your days in court - and you lost.

You were given every opportunity to present concrete evidence to back your claims that the election was a fraud - and you have failed to do so.

You have spent several weeks fanning the flames of conspiracy theories that have ALL been debunked by multiple sources from both sides of the aisle, and now your reckless hubris has embarrassed our nation and endangered the lives of thousands of its citizens.

And so, I say again - just go.

It's over. You lost.

Please pull your head out of wherever it's been buried these past few weeks and go. And go quickly, before anyone else gets hurt.

 

Sincerely,

An American Veteran who solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

 

 


NOTE: This post is largely based off of a message that I had posted on social media, to which I had attached the following image, which seemed apropos at the time.

chance_card_go_to_jail

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

After months of sequestration due to the Wuhan/COVID19 Pandemic of 2020, my wife and I decided to catch a movie. Sadly, however, the feature that we chose to see was Wonder Woman 1984. I'll provide more details in a moment, but for now let me summarize my opinion of this motion picture: I would give it a C- for a grade, although on a scale of 1 to 10 I'd probably give this sorry cinematic offering a 3.

ww84-w-logo-rating

WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (You have been warned.)

As I just mentioned, there are several major spoilers in this post, so quit reading if you haven't seen it. With that being said, here is my list of gripes from this thoroughly pedestrian movie:

  • The film was easily 30 minutes too long. Part of the cause for that excessive running time are the numerous and boring fight scenes that drag on and on and on and on and on and on...
  • Bringing back Chris Pine's "Steve Trevor" character was a ridiculous plot point, and served no purpose other than getting Chris Pine back on the screen.
  • Seriously, Wonder Woman - it's been 70 years since Steve Trevor died and you come from a land where men are unnecessary; you really need to move on already. Pining over Chris Pine (pun intended) just makes you look weak.
  • Chris Pine's fashion show of 80s-era clothing had no point whatsoever and could easily have been cut to reduce screen length. And the fanny pack should have served a real purpose and/or saved the day at some point during the movie - that would have actually been funny, which is probably why DC missed that opportunity.
  • What happened to the hapless dolt when Steve Trevor took over his body? How did he come back? Does he know that someone else was using his body for several days while injuring it in fights and having sex while using it? Isn't this more than immoral and really kind of gross?
  • Wait - Wonder Woman can fly now? With no wings? And no invisible airplane? Who writes this crap?
  • There is NO WAY that a jet fighter can fly from the USA to Egypt on a single tank of gas - that plane would have gone down over the ocean and both Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor would have been dead and the movie would have been over.
  • Somehow DC hasn't figured out Marvel's way to make an action movie with superheroes that has actual humor, so every attempt at a joke falls flat and the trailer for the movie steals all the best scenes.
  • This movie was another offering from DC where the entire world is largely destroyed, and and yet no one is held responsible and everyone's lives are happy again in the very next scene.
  • 1984 had to have been chosen as the year when this movie takes place due to George Orwell's famous novel of the same name, but ultimately this film has nothing to do with Orwellian themes, and as a result its title and setting are nothing more than a cheap stunt at getting butts in seats with instant name familiarization and periodic 80s nostalgia.
  • Whatever happened to the "Dreamstone" after Pedro Pascal's "Max Lord" character renounced his wish? That was a MAJOR plot hole.
  • Wait - there's a broadcasting system that can simultaneously take over all of the communication systems across the entire planet?
  • Somehow Wonder Woman was able to convince the ENTIRE PLANET to renounce their wishes at the same time? And for some reason they all spoke English? I have three words for that: Deus Ex Machina.
  • A far more realistic ending would have been for the world to revert itself after Max Lord renounced his wish.

I could go on and on about all of the major issues that I found with this film, but I should end my thoughts about my experience seeing this movie by saying one thing positive: the Red Vines licorice that I consumed during the movie was great.

Coloring Historical Photographs - December 22nd Edition

A friend of mine posted a link to an article titled Deconstructing the Reconciliation Narrative of the Civil War, which was a fascinating article that presented an interesting look at a difficult time in the United States' troubled past: the period of Reconciliation that followed the post-Civil War Reconstruction. If you're into history as I am, it might be worth your time to read.

That being said, the article contained a wonderful photograph of General George H. Thomas that I thought would make a great candidate for colorization. With that in mind, here are the before and after views of that photo.

General George H. Thomas.before-and-after

One interesting item of note about the final image: as I have always done in the past, I had edited all of the imperfections from the original photo; the scratches, discolorations, tears, etc. However, the fully-restored image of General Thomas over a flat background looked so unnatural that I decided to overlay my "finished" image over the original to add back a few imperfections. In the end, I think this looked photo looked far better with a few problems in it.

25 Years at Microsoft

Today marks my official 25-year anniversary with Microsoft. I've had a blast, and I've had the privilege to take part in some pretty amazing projects. I can honestly say that several of the products that I helped design are running on millions of systems around the globe, and I worked with some amazing people to bring those ideas to life.

These past years have been great, and I hope that I have many more to come.

Robert_25_years.edited


POSTSCRIPT:

If you'd like to see some of my personal history with the company, here are several videos that I recorded for Microsoft over the years.

Refusing to Wear a Mask is not Fighting for Freedom

The following image has been making the rounds on social media…

Anti-Mask-Self-Deception

This image has prompted me to ask the anti-maskers who are still promoting this anti-scientific drivel the following series of questions:

First of all - are you for real? Refusing to wear a mask is somehow fighting for freedom? I'm pretty sure that our forefathers and ancestors had an entirely different opinion of what constitutes "fighting for freedom."

Next, just whom are you fighting against? There's no oppressive regime here; there are no dictators, no despots. The CDC - which is an organization that is ACTUALLY fighting for something tangible (your health) - has recommended that people wear masks; but it's largely your peers who would like you to wear a mask, and wash your hands often, and keep your distance as much as possible. All of these simple actions will reduce the spread of disease during this pandemic.

Let's reexamine the original proposition for a moment; this image claims that you're "fighting for freedom," but for which freedoms are you fighting? You still have freedom of speech. You're still free to travel. You're still free to buy the things you need, to pursue the career of your choosing, to marry whom you want, to live where you choose, to own your own home, to start your own business; you have a host of freedoms at your disposal that the downtrodden masses in other areas of the world can't even dream of having. In fact, as I look at the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, I can't seem to find any freedoms that you're actually in danger of losing.

Let's step back a bit further - just how are you "fighting" for the freedom of others? By choosing to not to wear a mask? I'll grant you that abdicating your moral responsibilities in society and endangering the health of others might be a cheap form of protest where there's little chance that any harm will come to you, but I'd hardly count that as "fighting for freedom."

On the contrary, I come from a family with five generations of military service, and I personally served 8 years in the Army. At the end of my tours, I was able to return home, but some of my friends weren't so lucky. I have stood on enemy soil and made hard choices and did things that meant some bad guys didn't go home to their families, but because I did my job some of my comrades were able to make it home, too. In other words, I know exactly what "fighting for freedom" really means, and the fact that someone would somehow equate the genuine sacrifices of others with their illogical and irrational fears through the measly act of refusing to wear a mask is disgusting and insulting.

So let me make this clear to all the anti-maskers out there: you are not fighting - because there is no enemy that you are up against. You are not preserving freedom - because no freedoms are being suppressed. You are simply being asked to adopt a few simple practices in order to safeguard the health of your community. If you cannot manage to set aside your unwarranted paranoia and step up to your responsibilities as a productive member of society, then yes - I kinda think you're acting like a disease spreading, defiant, imbecile.

That being said, stop claiming that you're fighting for freedom - because you're not.