Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Apologies to William Safire. It was just a hunch, anyway.

Great - Now John Bolton will be coming over all the time

You're the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go. You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

I took the Country Quiz at Blue Pyramid. I guess this demonstrates the shortcomings of personality tests that end after six questions. I certainly don't thrive on all the drama of helping people with their problems a la Dr. Phil, but I will sometimes act as a mediator (or enabler, or whatever you want to call it) if it is the quickest route to achieve peace and quiet. This is an example of what my fellow libertarians call "enlightened self interest."

On the other hand, I actually am going to New York at the end of this week for a work conference. Maybe the Country Quiz really does know me better than I realize.

In the test-makers' defense, there are only about 200 countries in the world and they have to deal with a geometric progression of countries every time they add a question (assuming they want a different country for each unique set of answers). I assume there are 64 possible outcomes; they could have added one more question to refine still further their insight into the subject's psyche, and thus offerered 128 outcomes, but then they'd have had to include non-anthropormorphizable countries like Suriname and Mauritania.

I meant to mention a quote yesterday from my Admirals book that deserves contemporary analysis:

Nimitz stressed to Spruance the need for taking calculated risks to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy without unduly endangering the American carriers. That was like being told to jump in the water but try not to get wet.

Motivational speakers around America are still bestowing similar advice on their listeners every day.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Reading

To commemorate Memorial Day each year, I usually start a book about a different military figure and/or conflict about which I may be undereducated. Past efforts have included Band of Brothers (before it was a mini-series, by the way), Battle Cry of Freedom, and a biography of Maxwell Taylor. This year, I am tweaking that tradition and finishing a book I started over a year ago on the great admirals, succinctly entitled The Great Admirals.

It contains 15-20 page bios (by different authors) of 19 different naval commanders, most of which I had never heard of before. Believe me, I'm no Alfred Thayer Mahan.

In chronological order:

  • Francis Drake (England) - Knew who he was.
  • Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (Netherlands) - Never heard of him before.
  • Robert Blake (England) (No, not that Robert Blake) - Never heard of him before.
  • Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (Netherlands) - Never heard of him before.
  • Niels Juel (Denmark) - Never heard of him before.
  • Edward Hawke (England) - Never heard of him before.
  • Pierre-Andre de Suffren de Saint-Tropez (France) - Never heard of him before. But, if you're going to have a French name, you might as well go for broke like he did.
  • Horatio Nelson (England) - Read a book about Trafalgar and slept through That Hamilton Woman.
  • Andreas Miaoulis (Greece) - Never heard of him before.
  • David Glasgow Farragut (USA) - Where would Tom Petty be without him?
  • Wilhelm von Tegetthoff (Germany) - Never heard of him before.
  • George Dewey (USA) - I knew a little about him from reading about American occupation of the Philippines.
  • Heihachiro Togo (Japan) - I have read about him before, and knew that his most memorable achievement was doing something called 'Crossing the T ' with the Russkies. No word on whether he dotted the 'i.'
  • John R. Jellicoe (England) - Heard of him.
  • Reinhard Scheer (Germany) - Never heard of him before.
  • Andrew Browne Cunningham (England) - Read about him in some WWII books. His nickname was 'ABC.'
  • Isokuru Yamamoto (Japan) - Read about him in some other WWII books and saw a History Channel program about his death in 1943 when his plane was shot down. This is the guy who was in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This author, H.P. Willmott, had (IMHO) the most interesting against-the-grain view in this book because (he asserts) Cold War spinmeisters held that Yamamoto was always tremendously skeptical of Japan bringing the United States into the war, whereas the facts Willmott cites suggest differently. The U.S. foreign policy establishment wanted to hasten the healing of national war wounds on both sides and establish Japan firmly in the pro-West, anti-Communist camp. So Yamamoto was posthumously made pro-American (or at least a non-anti-American) as part of that effort. For example, he is attributed with this line in the now-classic Tora, Tora, Tora.
  • Raymond A. Spruance (USA) - Read a whole biography (actually, the only biography out there) about him after I saw a (different) History Channel program and realized I had barely heard of Spruance. To me, he was the most interesting of the bunch, maybe because of the 20th-Century native English-speakers (there were only four) it seemed like he shared a lot of characteristics with me (or at least with my perception of myself) and was therefore the subject with whom I most identified.
  • William F. Halsey (USA) - Well-known from plenty of History Channel and History Channelesque documentaries, but I had not read anything about him at length. Portrayed by James Whitmore in T,T,T.

Much of the rest of the day was spent clearing out some of the crappy trees mentioned previously, watching some tapes of things I’ve had stacked up, misc. errands, and some more messing around with the blog template.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Raiders: The Adaptation

On this pleasant-but-overcast holiday morning, I drank some coffee from one of my favorite mugs, watched some C-Span tapes that I've been meaning to get to for a while, and knocked off a couple of crossword puzzles from the "finish later" stack. In a little bit, I'm going to go into work for a few hours to enjoy the solitude and polish off some work that didn't get done Friday. Notice a pattern here?

There's a good article in the Chicago Tribune Arts section this morning (registration required and then after a week I think you have to pay for it - McCormickite control freaks) about these three kids in the 80s who remade Raiders of the Lost Ark in their backyards. It sat on homemade video until it emerged at the Austin Film Festival, with the blessing of the great Harry Knowles.

I love things like this, and it makes me sad to think how many creative efforts are lost forever, whether professional creations -- Fuller's recent "Big Red One" re-issue, countless disintegrating silents, Hollywood cutting room-floor excerpts, Groucho's quiz show episodes that almost got tossed in the trash by an overzealous janitor (a few did, gone forever), drive-in/exploitation gems, and 60s-70s Eurotrash -- or the fun stuff teenagers come up with after (or during) school.

The reason that "Apocalypse Now Redux" and the "This Is Spinal Tap" DVD are so great is that they make extensive use of footage unused at the time of the original release. It's like having two movies for the price of one. However, don't get me started on the rampant P.C.ism of the E.T. cops running around with flashlights or (even worse) Han Solo killing Greedo as a "last resort." More on all that sometime in the future.

This is also a rationale to never throw anything away. I'm an archivist at heart, and for a while I was contemplating library school, just so I could get some tips on putting order to everything.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Blog Maintenance 1; Yard Maintenance 0

So I poked around and found out how to do a links section and a profile. Both will evolve over the course of time.

Still haven't gotten to the yard yet (though I did read a few chapters of my book), and now I want to take a nap. Plus, I'm hungry and there's some cold pizza in the fridge. The trees can wait til tomorrow. Note: This is how things often go regarding my to-do list.

Playing w/my New Toy

Playing around with some Blogspot functions:

Snopes is a fun page to visit to debunk e-mail rumors, urban legends, etc.

Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies.

(BTW, I hear QT and Rodiguez are collaborating on something new.)
Looks like regular old HTML tags (of which I know far fewer than I hope to soon learn) work just fine - now I just have to figure out how to do a blogroll. As soon as I do that, laundry, yardwork, garage cleaning, bill paying, etc. will follow.

Hi Everybody

Well, I'm taking advantage of a little extra time over the Memorial Day weekend to do some things I've been meaning to get around to: cut down some nuisance trees in the backyard, finish two books that I started over a year ago (reading, that is, not writing), clean more junk out of the garage, and start a blog. Instapundit, Wonkette, Sullivan, Volokh -- move it on over.

I'm not planning on anything earth-shattering, just kind of commenting on stuff big and small as it strikes me. I have opinions but most of them start out with "Well on the one hand, X but on the other hand Y" so don't be surprised by inconsitency and seeming wishy-washiness.

So, I guess we'll see how long this lasts; There's only one way to find out how obsessive or neglectful I will be about blog maintenance, and that starts with clicking the big red "publish post" button.