Wednesday, November 30, 2005

&#$@! Microsoft Word and its &#$!ing "smart quotes" defaults, anyway. Everytime I have to re-install Office, "smart quotes" rises again like a cannibalistic zomboid bound and determined to gnaw on my few remaining brain-cells, or possibly just ruin all of my hyperlinks. Meh.
Touring the wreckage that's left of the city of New Orleans. I was suprised by how upset this made me. I don't usually tear up for much of anything.
Hey! Uncle Ron was named editor-of-the-year by the National Press Foundation. Aunt Bobbie mentioned that this was in the pipeline the other week. You see Toledo Blade cites more and more often in the 'sphere, which is generally a pretty good sign of national relevance, at least by my measure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Only a company as fundamentally unhinged as AD Vision would plant an article about the need to "make friends" with their customers, and then allow the writer to preface the story with a typical aren't-anime-fans-insane-and-scary anecdote. The applicable phrase would seem to be "cognitive dissonance". You just don't "make friends" by implying that your target audience is delusional by telling a story about a member of that audience who is a literal STALKER. You don't! Well, not if you want to actually "make friends". Let's not even get into the whistling-past-the-graveyard inherent in letting said writer's editor title said article "It's... Profitmon!", when said company has famously and recently suffered a very public re-trenchment and financial setback. This isn't insider stuff, people. Everyone but the hypothetical reader of Fortune should have heard of this, if they've heard of ADV at all.

In the process, anime and manga firms have taken on forms very different from Hollywood studios or publishing houses.

Oh, so that'’s the way they'’re going to justify the industry'’s mortifyingly poor standards of professionalism, is it? The sloppy ineptitude and open hostility that "professional" companies like ADV display are a result of their "friend-making" strategy, and not the bastard child of the industry's penchant for hiring the youngest, dumbest, and most-related work-for-pennies-on-the-dollar slackasses they can find, is it then?

Look, any creative industry that specializes in fantasies is going to have to deal with those emotionally and mentally under-equipped people whom fantasy attracts - the ones who can'’t quite handle reality, and have decided to squat in your dreamcastles. What you do with those folks defines who you are. It's one thing to make fun of your peers, as a fellow occasional-wanderer-from-reality yourself. It's quite another to mock those from whom you're wringing your daily bread. Especially in a piece aimed at the money-men who will theoretically bail your half-insolvent ass out of whatever mess you'’re currently in, you ungrateful pack of jackasses.

As for the extended section talking about the industry's alleged toleration of fansubtitlers, I can't imagine why anyone involved thought it was a good idea for an article playing up ADV's strengths. For one thing, as I understand it, a company acknowledging that they're willing to tolerate infringements of their intellectual property are opening themselves up to losing that property in the American legal context. It's deeply stupid to talk about it in the press. It's a strategy that depends on insider knowledge and group mores, rather than legal protections. Even "open secrets" ought not to be published.

I suppose I ought to mention that they touch on The Con in passing, claiming that "scalpers" were selling "tickets" in the second page of the article. Thanks for that little bit of libel, Fortune! Hope the IRS doesn'’t get the idea that The Con sells "tickets", and decides to yank our 501(c)3 status based on that bit of ABSOLUTE FALSEHOOD! Not to mention this being the very first indication that there *were* scalpers that I've heard of... I'm inclined to *not* blame ADV for that particular failing. It has "stupid, lazy reporter" written all over it in letters of fire.

Update: see here for an example of the fannish bitchiness and utter rudeness characteristic of a certain caustic breed of fanboy, and how one line of ADV products are *TAILORMADE* to implicitly insult their own customers. It's kind of dodgy when fan-run conventions make "got soap?" jokes. No theoretically professional organization ought to do this sort of thing. It isn't playful, it's rude.
Finally opened the second Nadia DVD "brick", and it turned out that there were another two soundtrack CDs sitting in there, the third OST and the movie soundtrack, which doesn't suck nearly as much as the movie itself, which is faintly notorious for its pronounced inferiority to the standards of the Nadia TV episodes.

That means that the thirty-some dollars I spent on the two "bricks" got me four soundtrack CDs at effectively half-price, discounting any actual value in the DVD sets themselves. Score!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Vol. 18 of Kara Kano continues Tsuda's impressive streak, after the slow multi-volume bit with the singer and his step-sister. I'm starting to really groove on the multi-generational dysfunctionality of the Arima family, although surprisingly enough, I don't find myself looking *forward* to new volumes. It's a spiky, harsh sort of brilliant, which doesn't exactly invite repeated visits. Sort of like Bujold's Mirror Dance and Memory, which are probably the best things she's ever written, but are also too intense to revisit on a regular occasion.
Oh, Ann.
Kent Masterson Brown was on the Pennsylvania access equivalent of CSPAN's BookNotes, talking about his Retreat from Gettysburg, which I still haven't finished, having gotten somewhat distracted.

He repeated some of the stuff in the book about Lee & von Clausewitz, analysizing Lee's strategy and behaviour during the retreat by von Clausewitz's recipe. Given that we're fairly certain that Lee never read von Clausewitz, and we're also positive that he *did* read Jomini, this line of analysis is kind of peculiar. Lee might have arrived at von Clausewitzian conclusions independantly in the specific case of "retreat after a decisive tactical defeat", in a case of convergent evolution of theory, but we're pretty clear on Lee's grounding in theory at this point, I think. He was a Jominian. Hell, during the Civil War, von Clausewitz wasn't even a model for any major figure that I'm aware of - maybe one of the "Dutch" generals had read him, I suppose. The rival theoretician during the actual fighting-period was Mahan, not von Clausewitz. The older generation had trained under Jominian principles, the younger under Mahan's revisions.

Talking about theory in the field is probably a bit over-analytical, anyways. Lee was thirty years away from his schooling by the time of Gettysburg, and had been in the field for over a year. He was as far from theory as you can get and not be dead of wounds. By the time of Gettysburg, Lee's behaviour would have been influenced only by the lingering training and mind-set development aspects of theory, with his behaviour emerging more directly out of praxis and experience at that point.

I suppose you could say that the von Clausewitzian analysis proves its superiority over Jominian theory in predictive terms. A brilliant and active general's practical behaviour after a decisive defeat more closely resembles von Clausewitz's descriptions of successful retreat than it does Jomini's version. Given the rather low repute which Jomini's work now has in retrospect, that's entirely plausible. I wonder what, if anything, Mahan had to say on the subject?

Incidentally, Brown mentioned that he's working on a book on the 1862 Maryland campaign. I'd be excited, except in the same breath he stated that it's one of four books that he's working on in tandem, all in his spare time. Given that Retreat from Gettysburg apparently took twenty years of part-time research, I'm not sanguine that I'll see his logistical treatment of Antietam before 2024 at the earliest.
Beating the bounds of Bellefonte this weekend, and the neighborhoods were alive to the ringing of staple-guns and the rustle of garlands and strands of christmas-lights, from the mansions of Curtin Hill to the bungelows of Bishop Street and the levittowns of Half Moon Hill. The weather held until Sunday evening, and everybody was making hay & hanging decorations while the sun shone, if barely.

Friday, November 25, 2005

This Thorn supposedly survived the massacre at Goliad during the Texan Revolution. Completely different branch from either the Libbs or the naval Thorns.
Wow. This family must have had an interesting Revolution. The father, Jonathan, was a loyalist who died in a Continental POW camp in Hartford, CT; he was captured along with two other brothers, the eldest of which apparently spent a decade in exile, probably in Nova Scotia, where his son Samuel was married. His second son, Samuel claimed he was a "minuteman" in the Continental Army, which is a peculiar thing to claim, seeing as how the "minutemen" were militia, while the Continental Army was composed of Regulars of the Line. Note that both cousins were named Samuel - perhaps "minuteman" Samuel was trying to separate himself from the Loyalist taint of his relations by claiming wartime service beyond whatever it was he actually did?

Whatever he was, Samuel's son was a bona fide war hero, Capt. Jonathan Thorn, who helped Stephen Decatur take and destroy the Philadelphia at Tripoli, among other feats. They named a WWII-era destroyer after him. Another son of Samuel's, Robert Livingston Thorn, was a ship's doctor on board the Constellation. Seems as if that end of the family ended up unusually naval, for the Thorns at least.

A grandson of Samuel's, Herman Thorn, was brevetted captain for bravery in the Regulars at Churubusco during the Mexican War, before dying in an Indian war a few years later. This makes him the third Thorn of that part of the family to die in conflicts with Indians, as his uncles Jonathan and James had both been killed in a remarkably stupid and violent fight with Indians on a fur-trading mission in what eventually became the Oregon Territory. Herman's sister Alice became a countess, if you want to believe that one. Well, this branch of the Thorns are definitely more *colorful* than the more strictly Quaker branches.
Here's another military Thorn, a Private Elias Thorne, killed during the Overland Campaign in 1864 on the Union side. If he was killed on May 19th, then the action was at Harris's Farm, not Alsop's - which would have made his regiment the 8th New York Heavy Artillery, which took the by-1864-typically massive casualties of a raw, green Union regiment in a heads-up open-field fight with Confederate veterans.

Update: yep, Eighth New York Heavy Artillery. His cousin Alonzo C. Taylor was in the same unit, and apparently was wounded in the same action.
Some of the sections of that website are more filled out than others. This entry comments directly on the whole "brother's war" aspect of the family's participation in the Civil War. The entry is on another set of cousins, a captain and his private brother from the Isaacs branch, one of which died in the Atlanta campaign. That makes at least four Thorn descendants present at that campaign, counting the Wirt County Thorne, the Thorn of the 150th New York, and the two Thorn Isaac brothers.
An exceedingly distant cousin, Platt Thorne, was a captain in the 150th New York. Here's a mention of him by Sherman. So far that's one Union officer and two Confederate enlisted men from the West Virginia branch of the Thorns.
How ironic that now that Althouse has gone paranoid and defensive, she's suddenly blogging sympathetically about Nixon.

I'd say it's time for an intervention, but it sounds like she's too deep into her defensive huddle to respond.
I had mentioned our Quaker ancestor Thorn to my aunt and sister last weekend at the get-together in Pittsburgh, and my sister just asked for a follow-up this morning. Basically, they had mentioned genealogy, and I brought up our ancestor "Thorn" who came over to Massachusetts Bay around "1640" who had been kicked out for being a Quaker, and had helped found Flushing. "Thorn"'s many-times-great granddaughter had married the son of a damned Dutch draft-dodger in New Jersey, and they became our great-grandfather and great-grandmother Libb.

This is the Thorn family website from which I had remembered all this, it was in existence a few years back in a less-evolved form.

The ancestor in question was named William Thorne. The website now says that he was an "Anabaptist", which wasn't what I remembered. Apparently Thorne was somewhat important in his day, having signed some early Bill-of-Rights precedent called "the Remonstration of Flushing", and having hidden Ann Hutchinson's son while still in Massachusetts Bay. They're now saying that Thorne came over sometime between 1635 and 1638.

We show up here with our great-grandmother Bertha Thorn Libb and great-grandfather Benjamin Libb. By the time of the 19th Century, the Thorns were definitively Quaker, regardless of the early distinctions.

For some reason, I remembered her name as "Elizabeth". Whoops. But great-grandpa Libb's first name was definitely Benjamin, and it's the right state, the right generation, and the right name, given just how rare a name "Libb" is.
Ha! Got called "hidebound" today. Since I *am* kind of conservative, I suppose that's OK. After all, the established literary tropes and conventions are generally so established *because* the alternative generally dies ill-read, neglected, and lonely on the remainder stacks.

I've been reading Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg. I don't generally read Civil War history for incident, but Retreat from Gettysburg is surprisingly full of interesting non-battle conflict. It makes the second Northern overland campaign seem like a vast cattle-raid, an enormous rampage of theft, pursuit, and retribution or escape. The bit where the good citizens of Chambersburg non-chalantly lead a wayward train of Confederate wounded carefully into the center of town, in preparation for their arrest far from the main columns, is particularly surreal. The cavalry-battle in Hagerstown, on the other hand, is impressively chaotic, with Brown describing various townsfolk spontaneously joining one side or the other, extending even to an anonymous female sniper opening up on retreating Union cavalrymen from a second-story window.

Brown doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic about the "Longstreet slave raid" hypothesis which has had such currency the last five years or so. Talks about it at some length, but dismisses the evidence as insufficient, and he tends to emphasize the tens of thousands of black slaves running the ANV trains and accompanying the field units as servants & camp-followers & their propensity for desertion & escape over the "re-capturing Underground Railroad escapees and kidnapping free blacks" narrative. Basically, Brown seems to be arguing that the large numbers of ANV blacks accompanying the vast foraging parties made it seem to local Union witnesses as if they were recent captures being marched back to Virginia, whereas they were actually integral part and parcel of the invading army itself. Eh, it strikes me as a half-explanation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I was visiting in Pittsburgh on Saturday, and on the way back, I got burned by a gas station pulling the old "cash discount" scam. They advertise a low gas price - ten cents cheaper than the high end of average - and once you pull in & are halfway through your transaction, suddenly that's the "cash" price, and your credit-card/debit-card transaction was ten cents a gallon more - up over the high end of average again. They used to pull this crap a lot back when gas was relatively expensive - before the Reagan-era price collapses in the late Eighties. Or maybe it's just that I don't have to buy gas in Pittsburgh all that often any more, and it just seems like they've stopped with the "cash discount" bushwalla.

It was a place on Mt. Royal in Shaler Township, BTW. Just down the street from the local school.
I was inspired to go buy Sexy Voice and Robo by one of Dave Welsh's columns. I had seen it on the shelf, but had written it off as one of those scholarly-hipster essay collections that Viz used to publish on an irregular basis. No, it turns out that it's an oversize-edition manga collection, an alternative sort of affair. And it really does look alternative, like those rather scribbly black-and-whites that were all the rage just before the speculative direct market imploded, the ones that still get published at Small Press Expos that I never bother going down to Baltimore for. Hrm. Anyways, Sexy Voice and Robo. It's a terrible title, but a pretty good comic. The artist has a great feel for character, and restrained humor. The art is kind of sloppy, though - messier than I'm used to from Japanese artists. One of the signal strengths of the manga/doujinshi, mangaka/assistant dual-level system that feeds Japan's monstrous manga market is the way it builds professionalism, and basic competence.

The standard studio arrangement of a mangaka and a cloud of assistants ensures that artists are educated through the on-hands work of an old-fashioned guild-style apprenticeship program, while providing the manpower for major works to be cranked out in rapid, machine-like fashion. The doujin sub-system gives the apprentice assistants an outlet for any creative impulses which can't be expressed in the masterwork they're spending their daylight hours slaving over, and a way to let off steam. Thus, by the time that the assistant is ready to become a mangaka in her own right, she's had at least a few years of rigorous training in the accepted method, observational instruction in how to put together story, layout, and narrative in a well-thought-out system, and usually at least a few experimental outings in the doujin market to work out the kinks and try out the stupid artistic ideas which just won't fly with an actual audience observing.

American indie or alternative comic artists are generally doing it on their own hook, making it up as they go along because there isn't any solid equivalent of the mangaka-and-studio small-shop system in the States. The result is that artists either grow or die, and you have to suffer them in their growth period, while they don't have a good grasp of scripting, or layout, or drawing, or whatever they're naturally not so good at, at least initially.

By saying all this, I don't mean to slight Sexy Voice and Robo's artist. I'm pretty sure that the slightly rough art and the fat, brutal linework are atmospheric, intentional. It was written for an alternative publication, after all, and that sort of audience is looking for "authenticity", which some interpret as slop. The rough urban setting, full of minor scams and rough edges, is well-served by the art style.

I'm not sure it's equally well-served by the omnibus double-length, oversize edition that Viz gave Sexy Voice, though. Blowing up the page layouts to twice the area of the usual American manga-collection page doesn't do any service to the already rough and over-dark inkwork. Additionally, although there's two volumes of material in this single omnibus, and thus it's essentially a wash as far as cost goes, it's still more of a financial bite to ask a browsing customer to lay out twenty dollars for a speculative title, than a single ten-dollar outlay for the first volume, followed no doubt quickly by another ten for the second volume.

The marginal opportunity cost of the later model is the greatest part of why the ten-dollar manga-volume market has taken off the way that it has. Doing strange little alt-indie works like Sexy Voice and Robo at a twenty-dollar price point seems to be an exercise in self-defeat. Were they looking for lower sell-through numbers? Does it add extra indie cred for an edition to fail to sell?
I wasn't talking about it before, mostly because I have a low taste for surprising people, but I've been on a weight-reduction project since early September. So far, I've lost about forty pounds - the goal's been about sixty or sixty-five. You know, within spitting distance of what the doctors say is the upper bounds of how heavy somebody my height ought to be. I don't feel like I've lost the weight, but my belt says otherwise, seeing as I had to drill a couple extra holes in it, to keep my pants from sliding off. When my mother saw me this weekend, she exclaimed in alarm that I looked like my Uncle Dave. This was worrisome to her because her brother Dave got real thin real fast a few years ago, due to his diabetes. I had to reassure her that the weight-loss was intentional.

It's been a strange experience so far. I find myself with a lot more time on my hands than I used to have - I had apparently been spending a lot of time eating. I'm spending a lot less time in restaurants, and a lot more time at home or walking around town. Home's kind of boring with no-one else in the house. I was apparently substituting food for other people, too. Poker two-three times a week has been taking care of that problem to a certain extent.

I was walking a heck of a lot for a while there. Three to eight miles a day, depending on the weather. I've suspended that particular activity, to a certain extent, due to what seemed like an incipient case of Achilles tendonitis. Yes, I'm pretty sure what that was - I looked up the symptoms and followed the instructions - a rather elaborate take on "stop doing that".

Well, I suppose it's one way to keep oneself entertained. I can see how some folks make a hobby out of losing and gaining weight. I'm gonna see if I can avoid the other side of that caloric bipolar condition.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The day after resolving to not waste money on DVDs, I go and blow a hundred dollars on Amazon on CDs and books. Foolishness will find its own level, no matter how you dam it back with resolution.

But hey! Hank Williams Sr! More Johnny Cash! And, er, a Rahxephon soundtrack.

I must be driving Amazon's customer prediction app batshit.

Update: No, just karmically investing in my own self-frustration. Somehow Amazon's customer interface and my own inattention resulted in my ordering a CD I already owned, and Amazon was so unusually prompt and pseudo-efficient that the order is now "pending shipment" and thus can't be modified by, say, cancelling the CD I already have, and do not want a second copy thereof. And they won't let me go through the returns process until the damnable thing *ships*.

Well, at least it gave me the opportunity to notice that my manga order was going to get devoured by the holiday shipping monster. I can bloody well buy my manga locally; if you're going to assess me a "holiday" shipping penalty, I can take my business elsewhere, Amazon. And I will.

Ratsa fratsa friggin' "customer interfaces"....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm in lust. Especially given this. You can see wall-plugs here, so the designs *probably* aren't neo-Amish back-to-the-earth Luddite bushwalla. My one qualm is that the interior walls look low and shallow, which would make for rotten bookshelf feng shui. Well, that and for someone as unhandy as yours truly, this is kind of a Mt. Everest of arts-and-crafts overkill.

But lord almighty, it sounds cheap. Wonder if they're discounting all the plumbing and wiring from the cost estimates?

Via a NRO article on the rebuilding prospects in Pakistani Kashmir.
Well, Open Source Media is live - and slow as hell. Dunno about the whole thing, I liked the old name better. We'll see if it shakes out to something worthwhile. I suppose I could use a good newswire aggregator, which looks like it might be in the offing, although the current offering is kind of shotgun-blast indiscriminate.
And of course, the Senate Banking Committee just almost-unanimously voted to recommend Bernanke to the full Senate, where he's expected to be quickly confirmed. Given that they only questioned him for about three hours yesterday, I'd say that's definitely a quick turn-around by Senate standards. The hold-out was Bunning of Kentucky. Wasn't there some sort of thing about him being just barely re-elected due to what seemed to be the initial onset of senility?
Yes, I'm aware that the whole debt-deflation gold-standard thing is Friedman and Schwartz (edit: or maybe Fisher), not original to Bernanke et al.; I'm not all that well-versed on monatarism, so most of this is new to me. The details of Bernanke's essays are mostly revolving around research filling out and proving the various monetarist hypothesises (hypothesii? What’s the plural of hypothesis?) and some other stuff about searching for "non-monetary" secondary effects of the deflation, having to do with agency costs and the effects of the loss of "credit intermediation" through bank failures.
Deep Discount DVD is having another one of its sales, and I had a whole slate of stuff lined up and shoppingcarted, when I had to shut down my machine & reboot. This gave me enough time and hassle-motivation to reconsider wasting over $150 (even at discount prices) on more goddamned DVDs. I'm never going to save a dime if I'm always wasting the ready on unnecessary crap.

I'm resolving to not buy another DVD until I finish watching that discounted set of Nadia that's languishing in my DVD machine. Which isn't going to happen anytime soon, because re-watching that series is reminding me just how extremely irritating Nadia was as a protagonist, and how minimally-written the series was for most of its run.

In other news, Guru-Guru Pon-Chan is about five times as much fun as it has any right to be, given that it's a shoujo comedy about a golden retriever who finds a way to become a were-human for tru luv. The second volume is actually an improvement on the first, with the addition of a straight-faced, deranged rival for Ponta's affections. I can't believe the same artist went on from Guru-Guru Pon-Chan to write the plodding, sickly-sad multiple-personality disorder comedy, Othello.

I've been slowly wading through Bernanke's Great Depression essays, mostly by carefully picking over the equation sections and not worrying my soft little liberal arts head too much over the math. Bernanke and his co-authors are generally kind enough to stick to the high points, anyways. Nothing about daring and innovative real estate debt instruments yet, Jessica. Bernanke seems to be of the opinion that Fed overresponses and mis-responses to speculative behaviour was more directly to blame for the start of the Depression than the speculative behavior itself, anyways.

There's a lot of talk about "gold-inflow sterilization". What that means, apparently, is that the interwar gold standard's central flaw was the wide-spread statutory imposition of counter-inflationary "ceilings", but a general absence of counter-deflationary "floors" except by standards of central bank behavior. When gold starts pouring out of a country, that country's central bank or central-bank-functional-equivalent was not only supposed to deflate its other reserves and currency monetarily, but were usually required to by statute - the various "fractional reserve" policies. However, when gold starts pouring *into* a country, by gold-standard logic, the central bank ought to set into place a policy of inflation to expand its own monetary supply to reflect a steady or representative picture of the gold reserves moving into that country's banking system. But there were generally no legislation compelling this sort of behavior, and it flew in the face of anti-speculative conservatism to do such a thing. Thus, France and the US at the beginning of the Depression absorbed a great deal of gold from the rest of Europe due to deliberate anti-speculative deflationary policies, but without inflating their currency to make this inflow proportionally less attractive, thus perpetuating the flow and causing an imbalance. The result was out-of-control deflation, leading to "debt deflation" and degradation of assets and all sorts of nasty stuff.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Massive, meaty analysis of Turtledove's fascist-Confederacy series here. I gave up on that series about two books back, mostly for stylistic reasons. The blogger takes Turtledove's world-building dead seriously, and I think I agree with most of his conclusions, although I have to say that his assumption, which drives his argument that the British would shift to a Northern alliance in the late Victorian/early Edwardian, that a post-secession USA would build its industrial infrastructure in the same vulnerable-to-Canada fashion as was historically the case, strikes me as flawed. Admittedly, much of the infrastructure is geographically-driven, but there is margin for adjustment. The points about the necessity of militarization of the Lakes are, however, entirely cogent.

Via Instapundit.

Correction: that's no blogger, that's Jim Bennett, late of UPI's syndicated "Anglosphere" column.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Crap. American Funds' Growth Fund of America is one-third of my retirement plan right now. I'm way too young, and far too close to the left side of my investment curve, for my "Growth" mutual fund to be peaking. This suggests it'll be a quickly-ripening turd by the time I'm hoping to be hitting my up-curve.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Feast For Crows just showed up. Only what, three years late? Maybe we'll see the next one before January 1st, 2010. Or Martin's death of old age, whichever comes first.
Stephen Green of Vodkapundit has posted that monster essay he's been promising for the last couple weeks. It's not bad, but the repeated cries of "media war" "media war" has brought something to the top of my mind from the festering stews out back.

Ernest May wrote a book about the quick and unexpected victory of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1940 called Strange Victory which was mostly about French intelligence failures and French planning failures, but one of the lesser points, which I think is currently quite apt, is the notable British strategic and logistical failures of that spring.

The British military intellectuals were determined to not fight the last war again. Contrary to the usual myths about Western allied doctrinal failures and the legends of the Maginot Line, the militaries of the West were determined to never fight those bloody ground-stalemates again, a sort of decades-long fear of Benet's spectral soldiers:
All night they marched, the infantrymen under pack,
But the hands gripping the rifles were naked bone
And the hollow pits of the eyes stared, vacant and black,
When the moonlight shone.

The gas mask lay like a blot on the empty chest,
The slanting helmets were spattered with rust and mold,
But they burrowed the hill for the machine gun nest
As they had of old.

And the guns rolled, and the tanks, but there was no sound,
Never the gasp or rustle of living men
Where the skeletons strung their wire on disputed ground....
I knew them, then.

"It is eighteen years," I cried. "You must come no more."
"We know your names. We know that you are the dead.
Must you march forever from France and the last, blind war?"
"Fool! From the next!" they said.

Strange Victory shows in passing the calculating British economists in ill-fitting uniform, calculating the resources and the logistics and the essential weaknesses of the Axis over the long-term. They calculated that they would fight a long war behind an expected ground stalemate and the armored walls of the British Navy, they calculated they could wage what Green calls in passing a "macroeconomic war". There was nothing wrong with their calculations - they all added up, and they dictated the wasteful expansion and diversion of their war to Norway, to interdict German logistical supplies.

The problem, of course, was that there would be no ground stalemate, no time in which to wage the expected future-war, no planned economic-war. While the British soldier-economists plotted their long term, far-sighted strategy, they let pass the unforgiving minute. They learned that wars were still fought with bullets, and chests, and bodies to stop the cannon-blasted breaches.

The cries of "media war, media war" make me think of those wise warrior-economists, who made the mistake of planning, not for the last war, but for the war after the next.
Hey, Fred - this review of a book called Sprawl: a Compact History makes it seem like a useful counter to the Crabgrass Frontier and the whole New Urbanist thing that you've been talking about recently. Hard to tell from a review, but it sounds like the writer might be stretching a bit, if all that nonsense about ancient Roman villas is indicative of the actual content, though.
Dimitri Rotov asks what's happened to Edward Hagerman, author of The American Civil War and the Origin of Modern Warfare. I haven't read this book yet, but I've encountered it in footnotes often enough, especially in Hess and Nosworthy.

The answer seems to be that Hagerman isn't a Civil War historian, strictly speaking. He's an academic historian from York University in Toronto, and he's moved on to other military matters. His name is all over what looks like a massive left-wing conspiracy theory about alleged American biological warfare in the Korean War due to a book he co-authored in 1999, The United States and Biological Warfare. There's some suggestion that some of the key evidence that Hagerman and his co-author relied on in accusing the United States of waging biological warfare in Korea was most likely enemy propaganda.

Personally, reading the authors' unpublished reply to a negative New York Times review, it sounds to me as if they were neck deep in the Kool-Aid. Their key argument seems to be that Mao and Zhou believed that their troops were being bombed with anthrax, and why would they be lying in their own internal documents? I think the recent experience with Hussein's own people's belief that they had WMD, when they had not, and long experience with the endemic paranoia, myopia, and inclination to believe ones' own propaganda, characteristic of totalitarian governments, ought to make anyone careful about generalizing from the apparent beliefs of tyrants. When you throw into the mixture Kim Il Sung's well-known habit of manipulating his patrons and allies without compunction or restraint, and I can't imagine why you would ever want to rely on anything controversial coming out of that end of the historical record.

In short, I don't buy it, not a bit.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Well, so much for that. The big downpour late yesterday afternoon washed most of the leaves out of the canopy, at least here in the valley.

Nothing much going on. Getting a lot of reading in, although I kind of stalled partway through the new Pratchett paperback. The Crowbar cancelled their last poker tournament without much in the way of advance notice, which made for a pointless trip to State College. Since there's a new round of tournaments starting up at the HiWay Pizza out on North Atherton, it's probably for the best. The Crowbar was a dingy, sticky dump of a venue, anyways. Let the bar-bands have it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

We've gotten a much better leaf-turning season than I had expected, given the semi-drought conditions throughout most of the last year or so. The trees on the mountain slopes have all turned a near-perfect, uniform shade of orange, with just the slightest tinge of green from the few hold-outs. Many of the valley floor trees have lost their leaves, but there's the occasional tree with a glorious set of bright crayola orange leaves. There was a set of them towering over the Catholic cemetery at the top of Bishop Street this morning, glowing in the early-morning sun and fast-fading mist, stark against the blue sky and lit up like a flame.

I love this time of year.
I was pretty pissed when the Pennsylvania legislature voted itself an unconstitutional same-term payraise last summer, so I was equally happy this morning to see the headlines in this morning's paper as I took my morning walk about town. Repeal! Ha!

Sometimes the right thing happens, if you give it time and a bit of bile.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Spent the morning and early afternoon waiting on a new computer at work. Boredom is my muse. That meddlesome bitch. ^_^
Rock, stone, willful self
Our crystalline seed
An inorganic creation
Unceasing in a sort of
Unmoving motion
Forming without effort
Or helping hand
Each element converging on
A welcoming surface
The design inherent
In the adamantine core
Doing nothing
Draws the whole
Into its destined shape.

Rock, stone, blinded self
Flung into unknowns
And endless expanses
unmoving uncertain unknown
But never indetermined
Set in a certain course
And unchanging
Determined in the beginning
By an initial collision
Hurtling through empty
Voiding spaces
Unchanging nothingness
Parted solely by the passage
No hope of volition
Our existence a decision
And the consequences to come.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Can an essay be both masturbatory and utter horseshit at the same time? Perhaps not in strict metaphoric terms, but almost certainly so in practical terms given this egregious example.

Or perhaps the entire effort is an exercise in high irony, an act of academic parody. If so, it's neither all that funny, nor particularly clever. Sometimes stupid is just stupid.