31 March 2007

Medieval Magyar views on immigration

Another quote from Reynold's Kingdoms and Communities of Western Europe.

King Stephen of Hungary (ca 1035) claimed a kingdom of one language and one way of life was weak and fragile. What he meant was that foreigners should be welcomed in the kingdom of Hungary. Their different languages and customs, their example and weapons, would enrich the kingdom and intimidate their enemies.

I think what Stephen had most in his mind was the weapons.

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What were we thinking?

Remember the self esteem craze? That only telling a child positive praise would build up their self-esteem, which as we all knew, was the major predictor of success? Well, that was all wrong. It seems that kids are a whole lot smarter than the experts on kids, as any good teacher could tell you. The results:
According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.

I begin to question the self esteem craze myself when I read of a study that ranked high school kids for self esteem. Girls had lower self-esteem than boys, which supposedly showed that our schools were systematically failing girls and tilting the playing field against them. African American females had the lowest self-esteem of all, so they had a double tilt against them.

But African American boys had the highest self-esteem of all. By the logic of the study and its commentary they must have had the most advantaged education giving them the best shot at success.

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An Demo, now Repub, jumps ship

Matthew Dowd, a top ranking Texas Democrat, broke with his party in 1999 to become a supporter of George Bush, and eventually a top advisor in the White House. Here's what he as to say about that:
“It’s almost like you fall in love,” he said. “I was frustrated about Washington, the inability for people to get stuff done and bridge divides. And this guy’s personality — he cared about education and taking a different stand on immigration.”

No more. Since 2004 Dowd has turned a 360 and is now a critic of the Bush admin, like so many others. So from trusted Bushie to repeating the same things anti-Bushies have been saying for years.

You can take your choice of how to interpret this: an oily politico oozing from the wreckage while he can, a principled citizen seeing the light, or simply one confused fellow. It does, however, show what happens when an administration starts to lose political and, perhaps moral, authority. It's time for most politicos to put distance between themselves and the fading admin and strike out for a bold new approach of their own - after first consulting the polls, their consultants, and fellow party members.

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Everyone needs a hobby

Like shoe lace tying!

Something I'm not particularly good at, btw. I blame it on poor training by right handed snobs who didn't understand why I wanted everything 'backwards.'

My niece Ai Linh OTOH taught herself how to tie her shoes before anyone thought she was old enough to be able to learn. It was simple, effective and like no other show lace knot I've ever seen. To this day I don't understand how she does it, but if I read this web site long enough, I will probably find out.

Just goes to show: there is a web site for everything.

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Medieval social commentary

In Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300, Susan Reynolds* makes this comment in describing 11th century Italy: ".... some of them [i.e. castles] were little more than nests of brigands --- 'Lombards', as they were sometimes called, or 'nobles' --- this last, perhaps, largely because they lived off others rather than working for their living."

True aristocratic values.

Many of the best medievalists have always been women and, at the moment, Reynolds is one of the very best, at least in English.

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The other war against the Talilban

Pakistan - remember them? There is a nasty little war going on in Waziristan (shades of "The Man Who Would be King") between locals and the government on the one hand, and "foreigners" on the other. Latest dispatch from "Dawn," a very interesting English language newspaper from Pakistan, available on the Web, is here. The "foreigners" they mention are mostly Uzbeks, Central Asian Turks. They have a reputation for ferocity and may be desperate. After allying themselves with the Taliban government they have no where to go.

I think "Dawn" uses the euphemism 'foreigners' to avoid spelling out that these guys are connected with the Taliban. The ISA mentioned is the Pakistani CIA. You know, those wonderful people who brought us the Taliban. Some elements of the ISA supposedly still want the Taliban back in power.

Very confusing if you can't tell your Uzbek from a Tajik.

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30 March 2007

Et tu, Saudi?

Now that everyone seems to be baling out of the good ship Bush, this little note at NRO must be the final straw for a family that has spent decades cultivating good relations with the House of Saud.

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THE FEAR - political version

One of the reasons I expect real Republicans and conservatives to be hopping mad about the Bushie fiasco is that it stopped what looked like a generation long turn to the Republican Party dead in it tracks. It is very likely going to cost the party the next election, which may lead to a decades long wandering in the wilderness. This was the situation in the 60s and a major reason why William F Buckley founded National Review. It wasn't until Reagan that the Republican Party became ascendant again. Newt Gingrich's Contract on America started a more intense recovery for the party, one that seemed to have some intellectual and moral underpinnings, no matter what you thought of it.

No more. Here is a very somber review of the state of Republican prospects in the near future. Here's a taste of it:

Polling data released this month confirm what GOP officials are picking up anecdotally: Swing voters are swinging away from Republicans at high velocity. Most alarming to GOP strategists is a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that found 50 percent of those interviewed consider themselves a Democrat or leaning that way; only 35 percent tilt Republican.

One of the long term issues is how to attract voters in the future. To date the Republicans seem to have destroyed the initial inroads into the Democratic lock on African Americans. Worse, their support among Evangelicals seems to be weakening on one hand and alienating other voters on the other. Their tough stance on immigration has probably destroyed any hope of appealing to Hispanics, who are a growing block. Ken Mehlman sure thinks so:

"We have to win back the confidence we lost in '06 from swing voters and ticket splitters," said Mehlman. "The way you do that, in part, is by being a party that is less reliant on white guys and expands its support among Hispanics, among African-Americans."

Most commentators point out that much of this is due to the war, and that if the prospects in Iraq start looking up this will all turn around.

Personally, I don't think so. The issues now are corruption and competency and I don't see how that can be turned around. In fact, it will probably just get worse. A lot worse.

Listen very carefully to news stories about the politicization of the Dept of Justice and the Federal Civil Service along the lines of what we know was the politicization of the Iraqi effort. That story is just now beginning to receive notice and the Demos are at least smart enough to make the most of it.

As I said in an earlier post: even if a Republican candidate wins the White House it will be on an agenda to clean out the effects of the Bush years.

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28 March 2007

How the MSM really sees us

They see us, i.e. the American reading public, as a bunch of self absorbed ignoramuses. Check this out. And my great fear is they may not be wrong - after all, their jobs depend on being right about how little we care about anything beyond our own smug self-regard, because.... well, we actually do pay people for this.

And my school just decided to dump any history requirement for undergrads because... its hard, and students don't like it, and they might go to another school. There's certainly no need in the 21st century for Americans to know anything about history.

Also check out the main page of the linked blog - Central Asia is fascinating.

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26 March 2007

The Fading Administration

Bleary eyed this morning from lack of sleep because our cats yelled at us all night or abandoning them for a week, I was struck as I scanned the morning news blogs by two critiques of the Bush Administration. One is from the moderate left by Josh Marshall and is distinguished from what you might expect from such a source only by its cogency.

The other, however, is from the far right of the stipendiary punditry - Robert Novak. When this guy has so negative a take on the Bush administration it begins to look like the political antibodies of American democracy are beginning to reject the Bush project.

As I've said before, if I were a genuine conservative, a Republican operative, or a supporter of the Iraq invasion, I would be mad as hell at this gang. I doubt if the Demos have what it takes to win the White House in '08, but whoever the Republican is will be the UnBush candidate. You can already see this.

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22 March 2007

War Movies of the 18th and 19th Century

I'm dragging this out, but it's fun and it's my blog. There is not a lot to pick from here and not all of these are good movies, but they do show something about warfare back in those days. As always, it's an idiosyncratic list.

The Duelists, 1977. Stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel, based on a Joseph Conrad story about the Napoleonic wars. Gorgeous, fascinating and fun. Not so much about the big battles but about an idiotic duel fought for the notion of honour carried to the point of insanity. Guess which actor gets to play the crazy guy?

War and Peace, 1968, Sergei Bondarchuk's version. The definitive film adaptation of the novel with absolutely stunning battle reenactments. Apparently Bondarchuck got a few divisions from the Red Army to film this, along with an unlimited budget. The American version (with bad dubbing alas) was 6 hours long. The original Russian version at least 9 hrs. Much more than a war movie. I'd like to see it again in the original Russian with subtitles - or not.

Waterloo, also by Bondarchuk, 1971. Not nearly as good as War and Peace it still has remarkable reenactments of the battle with a cast of zillions. Worth seeing for that alone. Good movie score by Nina Rota. I did not like Rod Stieger as Napoleon - too hammy, even for the great Corsican. Still, if you want to know what a Napoleonic battle was like, and how "they came at us the same old way, and we beat them the same old way" this is the movie. Unfortunately it is marred by hammy acting and the use of studio shots of actors pretending to ride horses.

Gettysburg, whenever. Based on The Killer Angels, I could basically repeat the 'Waterloo' description, changing 'Napoleonic' for 'Civil War.' It does accurately show what the fighting was like, although like most American attempts at filming the Civil War it runs into one problem. There were no fat, or even well fed, Confederate troopers in that army! Ted Turner was behind this one. It's filmed on the actual battlefield. It shows Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock getting shot off his horse, which has a certain humor here in the Clemens household. My brother the Confederate nut likes it, even though he says the wrong general won. And Lee's accent is wrong. This is the movie that should have been directed by Sam Peckinpah. That would have been an American classic.

But he was dead.

Red Badge of Courage, a film recreation of the Stephen Crane novel. Good battle scenes for its time, now dated. Still, it is a classic story of American lit.

ooops. Time to go eat, Carmen says. I'll finish this later this evening.

Okay - that was fun. It's now very late and I have had some sangria so let's finish this up.

Two movies about the Zulu Wars that the British fought. The first one you should see is Zulu Dawn. Stars Burt Lancaster, Bob Hoskins, Peter O'Toole and basically the entire Zulu nation refighting their great victory at Isandlwana over the British. This is one of the few big budget war movies that is better as history than as a movie. Production values are high quality and it was filmed on location. Gives you a nice feel for what it was like to be facing 20,000 Zulu warriors when your ammo ran out.

The day after the massacre units of the Zulu army swept down on a small British detachment at Rorke's Drift. Against all odds, the detachment held out, winning a bucket load of Victoria Crosses. The British made much of this, since it distracted from the fact that a White Army armed with the latest equipment had just been slaughtered in detail by a 'native' army. Hence the movie of that action, called simply Zulu, 1964. It stars Michael Caine in the role that made him a star with American audiences. It tells a great story well - although it makes up most of the details. The battle scenes are even better staged and filmed than in 'Zulu Dawn'. If you only have it in you to set through one movie of the Zulu Wars, make it this one. Even Carmen liked it. Good score by John Barry too. BTW, this is the movie spoofed by Monty Python in 'The Secret of Life.'

And for a very personal review by a woman who first saw it when she was eleven and spent waay too much time thinking about it, one character in particular, click here.

There are lots of other movies that are now coming back to me, but I think I will end with Revolution, 1985, with Al Pacino. It tries too hard to show the real revolution but only succeeds in showing how a late 20th century liberal thinks the revolution ought to have been. Still, it's mildly entertaining and the battle scenes actually try to show how an 18th century British regiment went about earning its pay. For a negative, no, make that vitriolic, reaction to this movie, try here. The real reason I like this film is because the 15 minute battlefield scene is perfect for showing my warfare class how gunpowder changed warfare - and I don't have to write, or deliver, a lecture.

That's it for tonight. Next time: war movies of even earlier fiascos!


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Clemens' pick of War Movies ... and maybe a few others

I didn't like all of that last list. So with a bit of consultation with Carmen, here are my picks that should have been included. At least, off the top of my head. They are in no particular order.

No Man's Land, 2001. As far as I know, the only Bosnian film ever released in America. During the three way civil war that destroyed Bosnia, a Bozniak soldier and a Serb soldier get stuck in the middle of no man's land, shot at by both sides. Call in the UN troops - which accomplishes absolutely nothing. By turns hilarious and horrifying, I don't think American audiences knew what to make of it - or cared. But you should.

Grand Illusion, 1937. A classic by Jean Renoir. Since it is a classic a lot of blather has been written about this one. Just go see it.

Cross of Iron, 1979. Not a 'great' movie by any stretch, it tells of the Eastern Front of WWII from the POV of some very disaffected German soldiers - their leader played by James Coburn. Since it is a Sam Peckinpah movie you know the battle scenes are .. uh... 'gritty?' One unexpected plus: actually uses Russian T-34 tanks to portray Russian T-34 tanks (sorry - you have to be a tank nut to appreciate that). Not everybody liked this movie!

Enemy at the Gates, 2001. Starring Ed Harris and that handsome guy, it is about the battle of Stalingrad, or rather a brief duel between two snipers during the battle. Not a great movie, partly because it follows a romantic arc typical of American movies, but the first fifteen minutes or so will show an American audience something of what the Soviets went through to destroy the German army. Bob Hoskins is great as Nikita Khruschev. It and Cross of Iron give a glimpse of the war from a different perspective.

The Battle of Algiers, 1964. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo this is a classic about urban warfare. In fact, I should have known we'd be in trouble when I read that the Pentagon was showing it to their officers before duty in Iraq. Brilliantly shot in 'news reel' black and white, filmed in the actual houses and neighborhood in which the battle took place, and starring locals hand picked by Pontecorvo, including at least one of the Algerian FLN commanders playing himself, this movie is almost like watching a documentary. It is even handed in showing how nasty both sides could be - Pontecorvo, a veteran of the Italian Communist resistance against the Germans insisted on this. At one point he even shows a trio of young FLN women fanning out across the city to set off bombs, some of which they know will kill women and children. The film is unflinching in showing how the French commander of paratroopers breaks the revolt - he gives orders for wholesale torture. And the French win the battle, but lose the war. Added bonus: one of the best film scores Ennio Morricone ever did.

The Blue Max Again, not a great movie, but it contains the best aerial photography of WWI dogfights I have ever seen. And these are not computer generated fakes - they are the actual flying machines. Good film score by Jerry Goldsmith too. But it is strictly for flying machine nuts.

Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961. In some ways dated, and strictly speaking is not a war film, but rather a movie dealing with the aftermath of war. Americans are probably getting a little queasy about war crime trials right now, so that may give it extra salience.

That's it for the bloody 20th - next time, historical war films!

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Once more into the breach - '300'

My favorite classical historian has written an assessment of the historical reality behind '300.' He doesn't attempt to rehabilitate the Spartans specifically, but the wisdom of portraying the Greeks in general as 'good' while the Persians are 'bad.' Does a good job of it too.

Such openness was found nowhere else in the ancient Mediterranean world. That
freedom of expression explains why we rightly consider the ancient Greeks as the founders of our present Western civilization — and, as millions of moviegoers seem to sense, far more like us than the enemy who ultimately failed to conquer them.

True. Though a major component of our civilization is actually Christianity, based on the sacred writings of enthusiastic members of the Persian Empire. Just pick you role-model and have at it.


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War Movies - a List

Lists are fun. I stole this one from AOL. It's supposed to be the top 25 war movies of all time. Carmen and I had fun running through it, but I decided that this is a yuppie's list - lifestyle lefty lite stuff, with a bit of pap for liberal silliness. Anyway, here it is with my comments. I have put an * beside those I think you should see.

25. The Pianist (2002). Never saw this one.

24. Sargeant York (1941). Saw this one about the time of the end of the Vietnam War (French version, not our attempt). Stereotypical hillbilly goes off to fight the big one in France. Turns out he can kill les Boches as easily as he killed wild turkeys. Note the date.

23. Stalag 17 (1953). Saw this years ago and remember how funny it was. AOL seem to think the humor is dated and interferes with the underlying grittiness of life as a POW in a German camp.

22. Thin Red Line (1998). Must see this one. Interesting reviews.

21. *African Queen. Good movie but is not a war movie. Neither Carmen nor I can figure out what it is doing on this list.

20. *Mash. Saw this when it first came out and it is a great movie. Hilarious while making a good point. It is now a cliche that it is not about the Korean War but the Vietnam war and that is exactly how we took it - way back then. I haven't seen it since, so don't know how well it has held up. God knows the TV version went on forever.

19. Downfall (2005). Don't know anything about this one.

18. *Patton (1970). Saw this one with my Dad when it came. Loved it, but it is the nearest thing to a 'pro-war' movie I can think of. Fascinating psychological portrait of the type of human we sometimes need.

17. **All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). The fact that this is not in the top three shows how shallow this list is. The acting is a bit dated, mainly because it was one of the first talkies made and actors were still doing the silent movie emoting. The battle scenes, filmed on a movie lot with the help of WWI vets (including Germans), are so realistic you sometimes see them slipped into documentaries as 'real' footage. The lead actor, Lew Ayres, becoming a confirmed pacifist, went on to make a movie of world religions. He went around the country personally introducing it (I saw him and the movie in Dinky Town, the little student enclave at the University of Minnesota)

16. Letters from Iwo Jima (2007). I intend to see this one as soon as possible. It's gotten great reviews and apparently should be seen in conjunction with Flags of Our Fathers.

15. *Three Kings. This is a much under rated movie. It stands virtually every war movie cliche on its head. It is also the only movie whose soundtrack I have not been able to find!

14. The Longest Day. Saw this when it first came out and about a half dozen times since on TV. Another example of the shallowness of this list: AOL found its use of literally dozens of big stars a plus, but for me it was always a distraction. When you see Peter Lawford storming the beaches and John Wayne jumping out of a glider, you know you are in La La Land.

13. *Glory (1989). Probably deserves to be here, though I don't think it was a great movie. Certainly the theme is important for any list of American war films. It's about the use of black troops in the Civil War - one of the chief reasons the Confederacy lost.

12. *The Bridge over the River Kwai (1957). Saw this when I was eight - it is still a great war movie and if anything ought to be higher up the list.

11. The Deer Hunter (1978). A superbly made movie that I was always unsure about. Now, I am not sure that it belongs on this list since it seems to be trying to depict something deeper than the Vietnam War.

10. Braveheart (1995). Another case of the list betraying its silliness. It has no business being on this list, not least because it is outside the genre as defined by the other 24 movies on the list. While is was great heroic fun, it had no more relation to history than any other movie made by Mel Gibson.

9. *Lawarence of Arabia (1962). A truly great movie. Why Peter O'Toole failed to get an Oscar for this still puzzles me. An intense look at the inner workings of a war hero, both real and manufactured. Made stars of both O'Toole and Omar Sharif. The soundtrack score my Maurice Jarr actually did win an Oscar. Oddly enough, three big budget films have been made about World War I in the Middle East: Lawrence of Arabia, Gallipoli, and Light Horseman. Only the first deserves to be on the list, though the other two are well worth seeing.

8. The Great Escape. A fun movie, but shouldn't be on this list. It is the model for Chicken Run.

7. **Paths of Glory (1957). A great, and often overlooked, movie based on an incident in the First World War. Kirk Douglas is great as is the entire cast. This choice almost makes me respect this list.

6. *Das Boot. A superb movie about a German U-Boat. If you rent it, try to get the original German soundtrack with subtitles. It was, if I recall properly, originally made for German TV with a big budget and was about 6 hours long. It would be worth watching the full version if you can find it. I remember a woman I knew in grad school telling me how much it meant to her to see it because her father had been in the American submarine service in WWII. Until that moment she had had no idea of what he had gone through.

5. Full Metal Jacket (1987). I did not like this movie. The scenes of Marine boot camp seemed falsified to make an anti-military statement and the final scene made no sense in the context of the Vietnam War. It certainly does not deserve to outrank All Quiet on the Western Front or even Paths of Glory.

4. *Schindler's List. Shouldn't be on this list, though it is a great movie. It is simply not a 'war movie.'

3. Saving Private Ryan. I'll have to take their word for this one, since I have not yet seen this movie. Wonderful reviews, which always makes me a little suspicious.

2. Platoon. I saw this one, and think that it probably deserves to be on this list, but certainly not as no. 2. There are half a dozen films here that are better, and in some cases much better (All Quiet on the Western Front, e.g. )

1. *Apocalypse Now. I am not sure they aren't right on this one. It is a great movie, but I have this nagging suspicion that it is in the no 1 spot because of its liberal anti-Vietnam war take (I think most of the critics who compiled this list are about my age and fixated on Vietnam). On the other hand, my old room mate, a Vietnam vet, loved this movie and has seen it so many times he has practically memorized the dialogue.

That's it. The AOL list of all time great war movies complete with my cranky comments. It is an oddly slanted list in some ways. Few foreign films, few movies before WWI and the two exceptions, Glory and Braveheart, don't actually fit the list. I will give it some thought and list movies I think should have been here in a few hours.



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My Inner European - Maire will be so pleased

Your Inner European is Irish!
Sprited and boisterous!You drink everyone under the table.

18 March 2007

More on the D'Souza book

I think that D'Souza has become a bit toxic for conservatives. National Review, the news organ that gave his latest book The Enemy at Home its most respectful hearing has also featured several blistering attacks on it, which leads me to believe that they have decided that it is filled with so much nonsense that not treating it negatively would call their own intellectual bona fides into question. This must be hard for them since D'Souza has in the past been one of their favorite house intellectuals. At least they have allowed the author extensive space to answer his critics which he did in a four part piece labelled 'the Closing of the Conservative Mind.' It's one of those things you have to appreciate.

I have mentioned several times how much I respect the historian of ancient Greece Victor Davis Hanson, even while I vehemently disagree with some of his views. He was one of the critics D'Souza lambasted for criticizing The Enemy at Home. Now Hanson has written his own response to D'Souza (so have some of the others, but Hanson's is the only one worth reading).
You can find it here. Here's a taste of it:

[I]t is the singular achievement of D’Souza that his bizarre writ has for a moment earned universal condemnation from those who can agree on little else. But that rare consensus represents not a “closing of the conservative mind” so much as it reflects the moral vileness of much of what D’Souza writes. And pathetically, the more frequently conservative magazines, media, and institutions offer D’Souza a megaphone, the more apt he is to play the wounded fawn.

Inimitable Hanson.

I think it is an interesting question as to why the right wing has turned on D'Souza like this, and what it will mean for D'Souze in the future. As I've said, in the past I have enjoyed his work and was always amused by the fact that liberals had a hard time trashing his views on racial politics in America by the usual, 'oh, just another white guy defending white privilege!'

Since the book sounds so idiotic, I will have to check it out of the library and read at least the core of it so I have some basis for sneering. And to see if it has any redeeming qualities, as some conservative critics have despairingly maintained.

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Politics for all you Francophiles

Yes, all three of us.

On National Review Online today I found an interesting update by Denis Boyles on French presidential politics. At the moment I care about this race a great deal more than our own, on the basis of a portion of none is none, and I find French politics, at least as presented by Boyles, much more entertaining.

I personally would love to be able to vote for a politico nicknamed "Sarko."

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16 March 2007

Off for a trip

Carmen and I are packing up for a trip to that port city in the south we have to visit every now and again. It may be a few days before I get to a computer again.

15 March 2007

Anarcho-syndicallist what??!1

Does anyone out there remember Michael Moorcock? He's a British science/fantasy writer I used to read back during the Vietnam era. Apparently he is not only alive and well, but living in America and becoming disenchanted with the American political system. Imagine that.

But his name appears in this post from National Review, where he is referred to as an "Anarcho-syndicalist science-fantasy writer.

Can anybody who has read him more recently than I explain that?

Clemen's comedy break

This isn't really funny, but it is deeply weird.

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An Update on Salamis and the Spartans

Jack's comment about the Athenians had Spartan help at the battle is more accurate than my account that they were all alone. That'll teach me for relying on memory!

The Wikipedia article he cites seems to be accurate. In my defense I will say that the basic point is still clear - the ancient Greeks, or at least the Athenians and their pals, thought of it as an Athenian victory because the action took place partly to protect the evacuated population of Athens, the general in command was Athenian, and about half the navy was Athenian (180 by Herodotus' account). When you consider that the next largest contingent was 40 ships (from Corinth), and most sent fewer than 10, you can see how vital Athens was to the project.

Most of the states sending ships were either Athenian allies or from the Peloponnese, i.e. south of the Isthmus of Corinth. Most of Greece north of the Isthmus went over to the Persians. You will also notice that the Athenian commander and the Spartan commander almost came to blows over strategy, with the Athenian finally resorting to trickery to get the battle started. I have to admit that this last detail seems likely to be Athenian propaganda, but who knows?

Here's a paragraph from Victor Davis Hanson's article on the battle in the Reader's Companion to Military History (since I wrote about five short articles for the same book you could say that we are co-authors, along with about 160 others):

... Greeks rightly saw the victorious rowers of Salamis as proof of the skill and courage inherent within the nascent democratic citizenry of Athens. But in the years subsequent, reactionary philosophers took a dimmer view. Plato and Aristotle traced radical democracy, Athenian maritime imperialism, and the collapse of the traditional Greek values back to Salamis -- a victory that had given enormous prestige to the poor and ill-bred of the fleet, and therefore in their eyes had made the Greeks "worse as a people." Few Greeks, however, shared their jaded appraisal, and instead
rightly commemorated Salamis as the battle that had saved the West.

Which also happens to be Hanson's view oddly enough.

Thanks Jack!

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Neo - Cons and the Crusades

Over on the Financial Times web page Jacob Weisberg has an interesting article on the black-tie gala for the American Enterprise Institute, home of many neo-con intellectuals, including Mrs Dick Cheney. It seems to be behind a firewall so I can't link to it, but at one point Weisberg describes a speech given at the event by Bernard Lewis, house intellectual of the Neo-cons (and one of my favorite historians). It appealed to my sense of humor. Here is the core of it:

In his address, the 90-year-old Mr Lewis did not revisit his argument that regime change in Iraq could provide the jolt needed to modernise the Middle East. Instead, he spoke about the millennial struggle between Christianity and Islam. Mr Lewis argues that Muslims have adopted migration, along with terror, as the latest strategy in their “cosmic struggle for world domination”. This is a familiar framework from the original author of the phrase “the clash of civilisations”. What did surprise me was Mr Lewis’s denunciation of Pope John Paul II’s 2000 apology for the crusades as political correctness run amok, which drew clapping. Mr Lewis’s view is that the Muslims started the trouble by invading Europe in the eighth century; the crusades were merely a failed imitation of Muslim jihad in an endless see-saw of conquest and reconquest.

Were one to start counting ironies here, where would one stop? Here was a Jewish scholar criticising the Pope for apologising to Muslims for a holy war against Muslims, which was also a massacre of the Jews. Here were the theorists of the invasion of Iraq, many of them also Jewish, applauding the notion that the crusades were not so terrible and embracing a time horizon that makes it impossible to judge their war an error. And here was the clubhouse of the neo-conservatives, throwing itself a lavish party when the biggest question in American politics is how to escape the hole they have dug.

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The Terminator meets Jesus

Andrew Sullivan has "The Greatest Action Story Ever Told" from Mad TV. I just showed it too the staunchest Evangelical* in my department and he thought it was great - so, since it passed that acid test of orthodoxy, click on it and enjoy.

*Of course, he is one of the guys who went to '300' with me, and he liked that, so take our recommendation with a grain of salt.

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14 March 2007

More Songs with historical tales

In response to absolutely no popular demand, I am posting another song about an historical event. This one is Warren Zevon's "Veracruz" - a beautiful albeit slightly anti-American song about an incident when Woodrow Wilson had the US Navy shell the port city of Veracruz. It's one of the songs I had revolving through my head on my retreat at the monastery. When I was an undergrad at FSU I would spend hours in the library poring over Casasola's photgraphic history of the Mexican Revolution. One of the grainy old photos showed a line of dead civilians killed in the bombardment. Yet I doubt if many Americans have ever heard of it.

I heard Woodrow Wilson's guns
I heard Maria crying
Late last night I heard the news
That Veracruz was dying
Veracruz was dying

Someone called Maria's name
I swear it was my father's voice
Saying, "If you stay you'll all be slain
You must leave now - you have no choice
Take the servants and ride west
Keep the child close to your chest
When the American troops withdraw
Let Zapata take the rest

"I heard Woodrow Wilson's guns
I heard Maria calling
Saying, "Veracruz is dying
And Cuernavaca's falling

"Aquel dia yo jure (On that day I swore)
Hacia el puerto volvere (To the port I will return)
Aunque el destino cambio mi vida (Even though destiny changed my life)
En Veracruz morire (In Veracruz I shall die)
Aquel dia yo jure (On that day I swore)

I heard Woodrow Wilson's guns
I heard them in the harbor
Saying, "Veracruz is dying"

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13 March 2007

"300" - and the Hard Right

Perhaps I should have phrased that a little differently, considering how some of Andrew Sullivan's readers have interpreted '300'. [and btw, thanks Elliot, and Anactoria!] But have you begun to wonder what real men, the burly men of the Right Wing would make of this flick? I mean the John Wayne/Gary Cooper type?

Well, just check out this sharply observant review by a Hollywood writer writing under the name David Kahane on National Review Online. It even mentions Wayne and Cooper, pining for a simpler time when you knew who your enemies were. First notice that the first three paragraphs make no sense at all unless you assume, like, say, Dan Simmons, that our enemies consist of the entire Muslim population of the planet, plain and simple. Here is an example of
the prose of this review:

The Spartans mock the god-king Xerxes (whose traveling throne resembles a particularly louche Brazilian gay-pride carnival float), mow down his armored “immortal” holy warriors clad is nothing but red cloaks, loincloths, and sandals, and generally give their last full measure to defend Greek civilization against superstition and tyranny. Where are the liberal Spartan voices raised in protest against this blatant homophobia, xenophobia, and racism?

You might note from that last line that Mr Kahane has no idea about the homoerotic appeal of the Spartans, nor that gay men aren't all queens. But, let that pass. Just read the review and see what you think.

All I'll say about it is that Kahane is certainly no poseur.

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The "Evil Empire" and the US Postal Service

Since I posted a few days ago on the US Postal Service (to which no one commented, btw), I have seen "300" which paints the Persian Empire as the personification of evil, degeneracy, and bad face art. Consequently I think it imporant for you to know that the motto,

"Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night shall keep this carrier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds."

... is based on a passage from Herodotus describing the super efficient pony express service of the self-same evil Empire. Herodotus was impressed. In fact, the Greeks always had a love hate relationship with the Persians.

Don't know what the significance of this is, but I thought it was kind of interesting.

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12 March 2007

The Great Patriotic War

When I teach the second semester of world civ, I barely make it to World War II, my father's war. I always make sure I have time to tell the students that it was the Soviet peoples who broke the back of the Nazi war machine. Most are quite surprised. Last time I showed them the first fifteen minutes of "Enemy at the Gates" - it gives them a graphic taste of the fighting and what it would take for the Soviets to defeat this enemy. I particularly like Bob Hoskin's scene as Nikita Khruschev taking command.

Hence, last night when I read this post over on Catanima I felt compelled to try to answer Jack's question about why the Russian losses where so huge - perhaps as many as 20-25 million human beings. I was still sick, and tired, but I think my comment made sense.

Then this morning, when I am doing my morning reading while my coffee brews, almost the first paragraph I read (in Tony Judt's Postwar) is this about 1945:

The Red Army marched on foot and hauled its weapons and supplies on carts powered by draught animals; its soldiers were granted no leave and, if they hesitated, no quarter; 157,593 of them had been executed for 'cowardice' in 1941
and 1942 alone. But after a halting start, the USSR had out-produced and out-fought the Nazi colossus, ripping the heart from the magnificent German military machine .... But the Soviet victory had been bought at a uniquely high price. Of all the victors in World War Two - indeed of all the participant countries, victors and vanquished alike - the USSR was the only one to suffer permanent economic damage.

Russians called the war 'The Great Patriotic War' - 'The Patriotic War' in Russian means the war against Napoleon in 1812. Perhaps the Soviet army and peoples were our Spartans.

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A few links to some things of interest

First and foremost, for Joey Sobrino, there is a discussion about beer tasting in the Washington DC area. 32 American beers are put to the test. Greg Kitsock answers readers questions about the beers and the test. He is listed as the Washington Post's 'beer columnist.' God - what a great job description.

For those of you with a more serious turn of mind, there is a discussion with Harry Lewis, a Harvard professor, about his book on Excellence without a Soul. It's premise is that American universities are losing sight of their original mission of teaching the ideals of civic ideals and moral obligations imposed by a democracy (well, somebody ought to take the rap). It's very interesting.

300 Spartans and history

The movie "300" hammers home the moral that real men are willing to strip to their speedos and face the enemy come what may. The battle of Thermopylae is presented as a type of Alamo, where Leonidas leads his men knowing they are simply a sacrifice to the struggle against the tyranny of the evil Persian Empire but one that will provide the rallying cry for all of Greece to unite together for democracy, the rights of man, heroic nudity and olive oil. Or something like that.

The problem is, we will never know exactly what happened because we really only have one complete source: Herodotus' history of the Persian Wars. Keep in mind that one of Herodotus' nicknames was "the father of lies." Only fools would attempt to explain what actually happened.

So here is my explanation. What did the battle of Thermopylae and the sacrifice of a 300 Spartans and about 1,500 other Greeks who stayed that last day?

Absolutely nothing. They held up the Persian army for two days. Xerxes spent more time resting his dancing girls than that. Rallying cry? Most of the Greek city states north of the Peloponnese other than Athens went over to the Persians. The Spartans were so worked up over the noble example of their king that they called for a total abandonment of northern Greece, including Athens, to defend Sparta herself.

The Persian army was large, but also well organized, well supplied, and well led (best book would be Peter Green's The Greco-Persian Wars - also check out this site for some maps). The Greeks were disunited, with many of them being part of the Persian Empire and more than willing to fight bravely for the King of Kings Xerxes. Others, even Spartans, betrayed the cause - guess who shows that Persians how to clamber over the mountains to come down behind the Spartans at Thermopylae. The Greeks guarding the pass simply high tail it. And all those evil Spartan councilmen like Theron who want to betray the resistance? Every single one of them was a Spartan warrior who had gone over exactly the same training as the 300 who follow Leonidas on his walk to the north. Where is the 'warrior ethic' that the original graphic novel was supposed to be about?

So what did save the day? The Athenian fleet at the battle of Salamis. They had no choice - everyone else, including the Spartans, had left them to face the Persians alone. It was the shop keepers, potters, carters, farmers, sail makers, and other craftsmen, the type of Greek warrior Leonidas openly derides in the movie, who man the Athenian fleet and against all odds destroy the Persian fleet while Xerxes watches from his throne.

But even that did not save Greece. Xerxes went home with what was left of the fleet and left the army, perhaps 40,000 men, to winter in northern Greece surrounded and protected by their Greek allies. It was the next spring that the last scene of the movie takes place: the battle of Plataea. A huge army of Greek hoplites (the heavy infantrymen) that was nearly as big as the Persian army attacked head on. The Persian resistance was ferocious and lasted most of the day. The Persian general, Marbodus, was killed fighting at the head of his troops. For a military buff like myself that shot of the Greek army going into combat was the single most disappointing scene in the movie. You get no idea of the deadly beauty of an articulated hoplite army moving into phalanx formation.

The Spartans did the best job that day, they were after professionals. But without all the other hoplites, most farm boys from the coalition of city-states that rallied to the cause after the Athenians had forced the Persian fleet to retreat, their would have been no victory.

And the Persians would have come back.

Thermopylae was a small scale fiasco due to treachery and as far as I can tell, did virtually nothing for the cause until after the war, when old men like Herodotus sat around the fire and crafted the noble tale of heroic resistance to all the unleashed forces of tyranny.

That's history folks. And now, I have been sick all day, it is after 2am, the cats are afoot in the house and I am off to bed.

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"300" - the movie review

Here's a pop quiz for all you apparently ill informed Christians out there in America (at least according to Claw of the Conciliator): who in the Bible is referred to as God's messiah, other than Jesus?

Answer is: Cyrus, Great King, King of King, King of all the lands, etc etc. And the Lord's Anointed. (By the by, that is the EVIL PERSIAN EMPIRE of the new movie "300" we are talking about here. And boy, is it EVIL!)

What did he do to deserve such a rave from the Children of Israel and their God? He united civilization under an enlightened and fair rule, one that revered law and attempted to right the wrongs done to down trodden minorities like the Babylonian Jews, who were given Persian funds and a military escort to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Cyrus and his putative descendant, Darius (he of the Battle of Marathon), who begot Xerxes (the seven foot body pierced queen with the dreamy eyes and dreamier voice in "300") also get rave reviews from some modern historians, me among them. And rather than a meglomaniacal God-Emperor as shown in the movie, Xerxes, like his father before him, was a Zoroastrian. (Zoroastrianism -a warm close monotheistic friend of Judaism and Christianity)

Just thought I'd bring this to your attention so you are aware that "300" follows the pagan Greek view of the Persian Wars. It has little to do with what may have happened at the battle of Thermopylae, and even less about what it really meant to the Greek war effort, but it boils down the patriotic myth to its pure testosterone poisoned essence. The Persians are not merely evil, they are physically and morally warped, as well as sexual degenerates. I haven't seen such disgusting bad guys since the Baron Harkonnen in the move "Dune." And that is where the fun begins.

Because for a certain type of person, me, for example, plus the other four males who watched it with me last night, it is an exciting experience. It is great over the top, bombastic, but not quite mindless fun. The graphics of the movie are stunning, as stylized and thus as unreal as any Greek vase painting of the Trojan War.

Gerard Butler is riveting as Leonidas. When he is on screen the movie has weight and interest, when he is off screen, you begin to recover your wits and notice what a crock it all is. And yet, for all that, I was thoroughly entertained by it.

As one reviewer said, it is just about as violent as "Apocolypto" and twice as stupid. Yep - that about covers the down side. This ignores, however, the sere beauty of the ancient Greek landscape presented, the awesome scale of the battle scenes, and the brief but effective recreation of what hoplite warfare in the front ranks of a phalanx might have been like. No wonder Victor Davis Hanson likes it - he literally wrote the book on phalanx warfare!

The history is bunk and it hits you with the message right between the eyes, and then hits you with it again a little louder on the back of the head just in case you missed it. Subtle it is not.

And it is grossly unfair to the Persians. And the Athenians. And the Persian navy (half of which was made up of Greeks!). But the history side of this I will save for another day. As it is, some people with a tolerance for comic book blood letting and comic book moralizing will love this movie. Both the teenagers with us, Clovis and his friend Nate, loved it. They thought it was almost as good as "Sin City."

And a reader on Andrew Sullivan's blog insists it is will appeal even more to a different type of audience. Can't say I don't see his point! Wait til he hears about the Theban Sacred Band. In fact, in this movie the Spartans personify the "warrior ethos" of the Sacred Band. They fought to the last man too.

BTW, if anyone attempts to tell you this movie is making a statement about the War in Iraq, or anything else that has the remotest baring on current events, shun them! They are either a poseur or a complete idiot.

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10 March 2007

Ah, yes, the hypocrisy issue

There is probably no point in commenting on the hypocrisy in politics of any stripe - it's like noting that auto mechanics get their hands dirty. But I will do so anyway.

Consider this line from Newt Gingrich speaking about how important it was to impeach Bill Clinton:

'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a
leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept . . . perjury in your highest officials.'

Consider those last few words. Conservatives of the Charles Krauthammer, National Review sort are now hyperventilating over the injustice done to poor Scooter Libby for... committing perjury before a federal grand jury. And he is one of "your highest officials."

But of course, in this case he is also one of their highest officials.

(btw, have any of you noticed how much my spelling has improved? Now that I have a super fast computer and the New Blogger? Even I can learn to use a spell checker.)

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Newt, once again.

My last post on Newt Gingrich may have sounded like I was accusing him of hypocrisy. Oh no. Newt sets us all straight in this snippet from a Washington Post article entitled "Newt's Zipper." (It seems Newt was having an extramarital affair at the exact same time he was leading the charge against Bill "The never to be sufficiently damned" Clinton for perjury - among other things).

"Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton's infidelity. 'The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,' the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton's 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. 'I drew a line in my mind that said, 'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept . . . perjury in your highest
officials.' "

In case you have forgotten or don't follow American politics (hey, it's more fun than a telenovela), Newt, after enjoying the charms of his mistress, told his wife who was in the hospital recovering from cancer that he wanted a divorce. Mistress then became wife.

I hope Dinesh D'Souza is following all this.

(note the last line of Newt's quote - I shall return to it in the next post)

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Say it ain't so Newt

Odd that I would post twice about Newt Gingrich, just the day before he would admit to a little discrete and oh so conservative affair, at exactly the same time he was leading the charge against then Prez "Wag the Dog" Clinton. So far I haven't made up my mind whether it confirms my minimal but genuine respect for the guy, or simply makes me look like a fool.

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More on "300"

Tomorrow I am off to see "300" with the gang from the history department, plus Clovis. I'll post about it once I've seen it.

In the meantime, of all the reviews that have panned it (The Washington Post called it a "guilty unpleasantness), this one here amused me the most. Here's a taste of it:

Hot Gates, indeed! Devotees of the pectoral, deltoid and other fine muscle groups will find much to savor as King Leonidas leads 300 prime Spartan porterhouses into battle against Persian forces commanded by Xerxes, a decadent self-proclaimed deity who wants, as all good movie villains do, to rule the world. The Persians, pioneers in the art of facial piercing, have vastly greater numbers — including ninjas, dervishes, elephants, a charging rhino and an angry bald giant — but the Spartans clearly have superior health clubs and electrolysis facilities.

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The US Post Office?

I swear, I didn't know that guys even had a sense of humor!

[There is, or course, no point at all to this post, but I have been getting lazier and lazier about posting on my blogs. The research is getting too interesting! And anyway, I just thought this was cute.]

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07 March 2007

"300" and the Spartans

Claw of the Conciliator has already started a discussion on the Spartans as portrayed in "300," the movie coming out this weekend. I hope to post something on the Spartans later, perhaps after I see the movie. I am going this Saturday with Maire, Clovis, and the gang (sometimes called "that family" at our favorite pizzeria). But for the time being, here is Victor Davis Hanson's take on it at the National Reviews "Corner" blog. I have a lot of respect for Hanson as an historian of ancient Greece, so his view should carry some weight. We'll have to wait and see if his prediction that critics will not like it because it takes a clear cut moral stance is accurate.

But, as I say, I will write more on it after I see the movie.

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06 March 2007

The other side of Newt

Garrison Keillor once sang a wonderfully insulting song about the Newt (Gingrich, that is), and a few days ago I posted a negative news story about him. I once watched him teach an American history class, and wasn't impressed - and teaching history is one thing I know something about. But he has also been consistently an imaginative thinker, and one who I think still sees politics as a noble calling, a service rendered to the country rather than merely a career track to power and fame. We're speaking in relative terms here.

So I think I will link to a positive column about the Newt by Cal Thomas. Thomas is another conservative I sometimes have trouble with, but who I admire in my heart of hearts for being consistent and honest, at least by his own lights.

With a political creature like Gingrich you always have to wonder how sincere he is, but I do admire Gingrich's call for a new politics. Certainly his analysis that something is seriously broken is spot on. And it is in keeping with my "Spirit of Ball's Bluff" campaign that I am going to have to revive sooner than I'd hoped.

Mirabile dictu! Spell check informs me that there are NO mispellings in this post!

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Katrina and our wounded soldiers

I have been waiting for someone to draw the obvious analogy between the shabby treatment of our military wounded at Walter Reed Hospital and the Katrina fiasco. Neither are accidents, nor simply the normal friction created by gummy bureaucracies - they are the result of deliberate government action. This little column by Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains why. Since it agrees with my own conclusions, I have decided that it is brilliant, even though Krugman is not ordinarily my favorite critic of the administration. Still, on this subject I think he nails it.

And while Congress is busy posturing in public about how shocked and outraged they are that this has been going on, they should examine the source: their own policies and their willful blindness to the unintended results.

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05 March 2007

Lyrics and History

I like songs and poems that put the listener back in a specific spot in history. There are not many out there, at least as far as popular music goes. One of the best was Al Stewart, a British songwriter now living in California. His album "Past, Present, and Future" was a review of the Twentieth Century, including the predictions of Nostradamus. My favorite song on it was "Roads to Moscow" about the German invasion of Russia in World War II. It was a very long song, but I actually used to hear it played on the radio. If you ever have the chance, listen to it. It's just the story of one Russian rifleman, of all the millions, who survived from the first to the last.


They crossed over the border the hour before dawn
Moving in lines through the day
Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
Waiting for orders we held in the wood - word from the front never came
By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away
Ah, softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
Crossing their lines in the mists in the fields on our hands and our knees

And all that I ever was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red silhouetting the smoke on the breeze
All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
Smolyensk and Viyasma soon fell
By autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
Closer and closer to Moscow they come - riding the wind like a bell
General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill

Winter brought with her the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground while the sky filled with snow
And all that I ever was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red silhouetting the snow on the breeze
In the footsteps of Napoleon the shadow figures stagger through the winter
Falling back before the gates of Moscow,
Standing in the wings like an avenger

And far away behind their lines the partisans are stirring in the forest
Coming unexpectedly upon their outposts, growing like a promise
You'll never know, you'll never know
Which way to turn, which way to look, you'll never see us
As we're stealing through the blackness of the night
You'll never know, you'll never hear us

And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
The morning road leads to Stalingrad, and the sky is softly humming
Two broken Tigers on fire in the night flicker their souls to the wind
We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
It's been almost four years that I've carried a gun
At home it'll almost be spring

The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin
Ah, quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
The old men and children they send out to face us, they can't slow us down
And all that I ever was able to see
The eyes of the city are opening now it's the end of the dream
I'm coming home, I'm coming home
Now you can taste it in the wind, the war is over

And I listen to the clicking of the train wheels as we roll across the border
And now they ask me of the time
That I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
"They only held me for a day, a lucky break", I say;
They turn and listen closer
I'll never know, I'll never know
Why I was taken from the line and all the others
To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia

And it's cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen
And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
And I wonder when I'll be home again and the morning answers"Never"
And the evening sighs and the steely Russian skies go on forever

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Latin Music

I have for years now always been fooled for at least a fraction of a second when I walk into a music store and see a bin in the popular music section labeled "Latin Music." For one brief instant I expect to find popular songs with lyrics in Latin. And I'm always disappointed.

Since I am in a nostalgic mood for all my past silliness, here are the lyrics to a song by Cat Stevens before he converted to Islam that actually are in Latin:

Hunc ornatum mundi
Nolo perdere
Video flagrare
Omnia res
Audio clamare
Nunc extinguitur
Mund(I) et astrorum lamen
Nunc concipitur
Mali hominis crimen
Tristetat(e) et lacrimis
Gravis est dolor
De terraeque maribus
Magnus est clamor
O caritas, o caritas
Nobis semper sit amor
Nos perituri mortem salutamus
Sola resurgit vita
Ah, this world is burning fast
Oh, the world will never last
I don't want to lost it here in my time
Give me time forever here in my time.

A type of Dies Irae from the point of view of those left behind, don't you think? Obviously Cat was giving a lot of thought to spiritual imagery at the time. Odd that he found his answers in Islam.

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04 March 2007

Hurricane Katrina - at last it can be told

Ever wonder why Hurricane Katrina was such a fiasco? I myself thought it was the failure of the American political class, starting with El Prez, working its way down to the Mayor of New Orleans and going back decades.

Silly me.

Newt Gingrich now sets us straight. It was the fault of the people of the 9th ward of New Orleans themselves! Check it out here. And here is the full quote:
How can you have the mess we have in New Orleans, and not have had deep nvestigations of the federal government, the state government, the city government, and the failure of citizenship in the Ninth Ward, where 22,000 people were so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn't get out of the way of a hurricane.

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Belphegor in Hades

No, it's not a 18th century Italian opera. It's a comic strip about a huge, gross red demon named Belphegor. Belphegor is fed up with truckling to 'the Management' and decides to do something about it. It will not end well.

Belphegor actually wishes he were Belial, lord of lawlessness and government. At least when he is not trying to look like Batman. He and his best pal, Moloch, sit around playing video games and telling bad Unitarian jokes. In Hell Sauron is an outside consultant and Yoda a casual drop in.

So check it out, if you are not offended by toilet jokes.

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03 March 2007

The New Computer!

Maybe I am not a complete luddite after all. I only needed one visit by Clovis the computer genius and one call to tech support to get everything working properly.

Three weeks ago I bought a Dell Inspiron I640 over the Internet. It's loaded with Windows VISTA home premium, an Intel Core2 processor, and a whole bunch of memory. I am not entirely sure what all that means, and not yet sure I really like VISTA, but we'll see.

A week later Clovis helped me figure out how to operate it. One week after that I got around to ordering DSL service through my phone company, and a week after that I finally worked up the nerve to unpack all the little gizmos they sent me and even to hook them up. It didn't work.

Finally this afternoon I decided to bite the bullet and deal with tech support (and you know how I feel about tech support). Had to wait 25 minutes, but once I spoke to a real person it took him about two questions to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was along the line of not plugging the gizmo in properly, but I insist it was due to poorly drawn instructions.

So I am up and running, and making this post just to play with the new equipment. It is so much fun to type with, and even my eight year old version of WordPerfect looks beautiful. This will be so much faster that I may start blogging more.

Next step: AOL gets the boot!

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