Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Horror!

Some really good looking horror movies are peculating through the entertainment digestive track…

Mama, take some kids raised by themselves in the woods for years…add a creepy ghost…buckle up

Maybe kids are becoming the next monster (look out, zombies).  Citadel seems to be about cannibalistic kids roosting in an abandoned apartment complex.

So, what if all those tin foil hat wearers are right after all and the world is run by a secret cabal?  The Conspiracy takes the fake documentary trope to find out.  This one could go either way.  I like the idea but there are so many ways it could go wrong I won’t get my hopes up.

The Iron Heel

Like most American school children (I hope, at least) I was exposed to some of Jack London’s stories (White Fang, Call of the Wild, To Build a Fire) pretty early.  Of course, introducing us to the icons of American literature at such an early age allows our teachers to avoid messy aspects of the authors that our society, with its fixation on hero worship, good/bad dichotomies and bumper sticker explanations like to ignore.

So, it was with interest that I read that Jack London had written a precursor to the distopian genre in a book called The Iron Heel.  I picked it up and began reading.  That was when I found out that Jack was an ardent Socialist .

At other times I probably wouldn’t recommend this book but, given our current political and economic environment, I would recommend it very highly.  Even though it was published over a century ago, if you’re concerned about companies ‘too big to fail’, political cronyism and corruption, the militarization and misuse of domestic security forces, the disenfranchisement of citizens, terrorism and the lack of choice among the various candidates and similar issues, you’ll be interested to see how similarly these problems were discussed at the turn of the last century.

So, does that mean London then, and people with similar concerns today, are simply Chicken Littles, declaring the sky is eternally falling?   Well, certainly Socialist thinkers were unable to conceive of the flexibility and ability to adapt of Capitalism.  Things like the New Deal just weren’t on anyone’s radar then   I’m not sure that invalidates the whole line of thinking, however.  Just because a system has flexibility in it doesn’t mean it’s infinitely flexible.

Feeding off some of those concerns (but, by no means sharing a Socialist underpinning) I was interested in the following blog posts that all seem to fit together.

First is by Paul Pillar who writes about “The Plutocratic Tradition in America” in which he talks about America in the late 18th century and the beginning of the tradition of the rich and well connected to game the political system in order to transfer wealth from the poor to themselves.  At that time it led to the Whiskey Rebellion (which I wrote about here):

The Whiskey Rebellion tends to get treated in textbooks today as a landmark in establishing the authority of the fledgling federal government. But it was first and foremost class warfare—as was the forceful response to it, which was cheered on by well-to-do gentry anxious to quash what they regarded as a democratic threat to their class’s economic position. Today “class warfare” gets hurled as an epithet against political opponents, but class warfare—waged by classes above as well as ones below—has a long history in America.

Fabius Maximus (via YT) talks about another aspect of the problem.  Our continued militarization of society and what it means.

We are at war, a war now in its second decade. We’re increasingly mobilizing every aspect of our society to defeat the enemy. Not just the massive expansion of our military, intelligence services, and domestic security services (no longer well-described as “police”).  Inevitably this militarization spreads, affecting other aspects of our society.  Our enemy is America, America-as-it-once-was. We’re winning!

Indeed.

 

I can’t help myself

Ok, this isn’t entirely fair picking on the Tea Party people because cognitively they aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed but I saw this on the Book of Faces yesterday and I can’t resist posting what I assume someone actually thinks is a coherent thought…

Occult religions are roll-your-own religions and typically they combine a lot of different aspects of other religions. People should not spend too much time and effort trying to label Obama one thing, because he is a combination of a lot of different things, Muslim, Black Nazi, pseudo-Christian, Marxist/Communist . Ultimately, it is about self-worship. He believes he is a higher being with a divine mission to transform the world in his own image.

 

Ohh…I also bet he’s also vegetarian and puts empty milk containers back into the fridge!

And speaking of fridges…How about this link to a Daily Mail story.  Did you know Michelle Obama was on a secret mission to starve our children to death?

We’re hungry! Students revolt over Michelle Obama’s 850-calorie school meals with online video as First Lady faces growing anger

That’s right…Michelle Obama only wants to give growing children 850 calories…for lunch.  I suppose most families, living in free market utopias, refuse to feed their children breakfast or dinner as they are afraid it’ll make kids dependent on handouts.

This is a great story that really could only run in places outside the U.S. or in places where people have never actually seen American kids.  Apparently our biggest problem is a glut of  student athletes who “can burn through as many as 5,000 calories a day – but they are still entitled to no more than 850 calories for their lunch.”

Been to Wal-Mart lately?  Oh, yeah.  We’re awash in school age kids with Adonis like physiques.

And of course, this misses the bigger (excuse that) point.  These are people who hate government intervention complaining about…interference in their government run school lunch program.

Indeed…Get the gubmint out of my government run school lunch program!

Yes, and social security and Medicare are paragons of free market capitalism.

Shouldn’t the argument be…’Stop all subsidized lunches!’  Leave it up to parents to decide how much (or if) their kids should eat lunch .  That’s at least a position consistent with the modern conservative movement.

If it hasn’t already, the Right is in danger of becoming a parody of itself.  Oh, who are we kidding…it became that a long time ago.

 

Guest Post: I can’t relate. And neither can they.

Via Festivus

Imagine you had a million dollars. Pretty good, right? Now imagine it’s 10 million dollars. Take minute. Really picture it. That’s a life changing sum of money. Think about your job, your home, your family, your friends. Think things would be different? Ok, now really go for it. Imagine you have $100 million dollars. See any changes in that picture? How many of your current worries would go away? Saving for college for your kids? Not a problem. Mortgage and car loans? Gone. Planning a family vacation, new car, home improvement? Whatever you want, it’s yours. Pretty amazing, right?

So, what would you worry about that you don’t worry about now? Health concerns are almost the same. Rich people have health problems too, although with $100 million you’d have access to the best healthcare in the world. What else would keep you up at night? Maybe you’d be worried that one of your money managers was under-performing and you’ll have to that account up for review and proposals. Maybe another money manager is over-performing and you’re worried he’s another Ponzi-schemer like Bernie Madoff. Perhaps the possible changes in estate tax law make you worry that your family trust will have to be reworked. Or that the election results might result in greater regulation of any business in which you hold a stake. Maybe you’re worried that your net worth gain of 13% last year won’t continue next year. Or maybe you just have the multi-multi-millionaires most common nightmare, that the ‘temporary’ Bush tax cuts will finally expire and you’ll see your taxes jump.

It must be rough having those problems weighing on your mind. Can you imagine the stress? The concern? It’s a tremendous load to bear. Here’s the good news – you most likely will never have to worry about those things! If you’re an average American, you don’t have $100 million. Instead you have net worth of around $77 thousand dollars. That’s down 40% from 2007.

Your concerns are morecommon. You have to pay the bills with an income that has remained stagnant or dropped for the past two years. You might have to save for college or pay for medical expenses which have relative inflation rates far exceeding those of the general cost of living. You might worry about the rising cost of gas which is up 30% in the last 2 years.

Personally, I think it’s fun to imagine I’m rich every now and then. But I have to admit it’s really hard to closely empathize with someone whose entire existence is unrelated to mine. The wealthy have private healthcare, private travel, private education, and access to political decision-makers that you and I will never have. So what? The wealthy live very different lives. Well I have a theory. As hard as it is for me or you to put ourselves in their shoes and feel their pain, I think it’s just as hard for them to relate to OUR needs. How can anyone who has such amazing privilege and advantage understand the trials of people struggling to make ends meet? How can they see the importance of a bus line or a breakfast program at school? How can they understand the impact of a cut to emergency public services or state university funding?

I think most Americans would do better if we elected representatives who actually represented us. It seems like common sense to me that politicians would be much better equipped to address our concerns if they shared them.

Those crazy Swedes

This story is really most incredible.  Bonus points to anyone who can weave this into some sort of international spy thriller. So, this truck driver walks into a pizzeria and orders a beer (after having too many)…

Enraged at being cut off by staff at the pizzeria, the driver proceeded to urinate on other diners’ foo

His friends then started attacking other guests at the establishment on the belief someone had called police.

The angry driver then lost track of who was friend or foe, knocking flat one his friends who was trying to help the drunken 29-year-old find the door.

Pretty wild, right?  Oh, it’s not over yet…

While police detained the 29-year-old’s punched out friend, the irate driver managed to escape the scene, only to mysteriously turn up in another man’s kitchen a short time later, bloodied and wearing only his underwear.

The proprietor of the kitchen into which the 29-year-old stumbled kindly offered to give the man a ride, only to find himself eating a knuckle sandwich courtesy of the rampaging truck driver as they made their way to the good Samaritan’s car, according to the paper.

Later in the evening, the 29-year-old tried to steal a car parked in a nearby driveway.

Ok, let’s wind this up…

The drunken driver…was eventually tracked down by police after he left his credit card and a pack of cigarettes in the car he’d attempted to steal.

Whew…that’s exhausting.  How about a bite to eat?

Surströmming – Fermented herring that reportedly (I’ve never smelled it) smells so bad that it will clear out any room in which it is opened.

I’m not kidding…check this out.

So bad, in fact, that some person smelling it in their apartment building reported it as a gas leak, bringing out the emergency services.

On Saturday, two fire trucks, two police cars and an emergency gas leak team all rushed towards the Stockholm neighbourhood Södermalm, having been alerted by concerned neighbours who smelled gas in the stairwell, but the unpleasant smell turned out to come from something less dangerous.

Mrs. TwShiloh is a pretty patriotic Swede but even she won’t lay claim to this dish.

 

The Wolf

It’s never been entirely clear to me why the First World War hasn’t generated the same level of interest that the sequel has here in the U.S. of A. Granted we weren’t in it for very long but it provides an opportunity to not only see how a conflict manifests itself differently throughout the world and at different levels (from the grand strategic to the very personal and individual) but also to examine a fault line between eras. How do civilizations act (and react) do the death of one age and the birth of another? You can see traces of both the ‘old’ Romantic era and the ‘new’ Modern one struggling in the same time and place which, I suspect, has more to tell us about where we might be headed than WWII does . So, I’ve been dipping my toe into WW1 readings lately and quite enjoying it.

I recently finished The Wolf by Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I started the book and I don’t have much in the way of nautical interest generally but this was a compelling read. The book follows the journey of the German commerce raider SMS Wolf which spanned the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans (64,000 miles) over 14 months without one trip into port. The ship sustained itself solely through the cargo of the ships it captured. It’s total damages were 30 ships damaged or sunk, totally 138,000 tons. More importantly, the activities of the Wolf had a disproportionate impact on the war effort of the allies, forcing them to restrict the shipping of cargo and troops, revealing rifts in the alliance and causing domestic discord (at least in Australia).

It’s the latter story which is both interesting and frustrating in revealing how little things have changed in our response to threats over the past 100 years. The Australian government, refusing to accept ever more compelling evidence that a commerce raider was prowling in their waters, decided to curry popular support by creating a scare of a secret fifth column of people of German decent. There were internment camps, calls for mass deportation and increasing paranoia about the dangers from the Hun. Re-skin those positions, speeches and laws to the boogy man of the week (Muslims, immigrants, gays, etc.) and you’d hardly know we were in the 21st century.

But apart from that little bit of deja vu, the real story is what went on board on the Wolf itself. As the Wolf had to be self-sustaining, abided but the contemporary laws of war and had no friendly port to pull into, she had to keep all of her prisoners on board for the duration of her journey. That meant some prisoners were kept on the ship for nearly a year and at one point the ship, with a crew of almost 350, had around 400 prisoners on board, including women and children. Keeping so many people in such a small area for extended periods of time and under stressful conditions is bound to lead to all sorts of differing conflicts and relationships and The Wolf does not dissapoint in discussing them. The dynamics between the Germans and the prisoners (of different nationalities), the prisoners amongst themselves, the officers and the crew (while at sea, there was a mutiny of the German Navy and word made it to the crew, causing much confusion and consternation), the ‘civilians’ and everyone else, are facinating and that’s totally separate from the war going on outside the ship’s hull.

As, I suspect, is true with most wartime deployments, it’s the end of the mission that is the most stressful. You’re tired, anticipating being home (or at least out of the battle), and the temptation to give into complacency or paralysis from too much caution can prove fatal. The Wolf had to navigate British blockade many thought wasn’t possible, under terrible weather conditions, with ever decreasing supplies. Prisoners were suffering from scurvy and beri-beri, coal was running low, and huge winter storms were running rampant across the Atlantic.

The prisoners were faced with the dilemma of both hoping to be found by allied ships and dreading the possibility. After all, an allied warship could decide to blow the Wolf out of the water instead of asking for her surrender.

In fact, there are so many levels of drama and conflict within this story I can’t help wondering why it hasn’t been brought to the screen or used to drive a fictional story based on these dynamics. Change the backdrop to a sci-fi universe with the Wolf becoming a spaceship and the story practically writes itself. Or, imagine a much (MUCH) grimmer version of the Love Boat (please no guest cameo by Gopher) where the cast is forever stuck on the Pacific Princess. And no worries, there were enough ladies as prisoners to allow for all sorts of romantic plot lines.

Here’s a video of the Wolf (along with her seaplane the cleverly named ‘Wolfchen’ or ‘little wolf’).

And a bit from one of the authors…

Kvick Tänkare

I can’t remember the movie(s) but I do remember hearing anecdotes about weird experiments with victims of the guillotine.  Specifically, trying to see how long one could keep a head alive once it was separated from the body.  Well The Chirurgeons Apprentice tracks the rumor down and finds the truth behind it.  It’s kind of creepy.

A long time ago, I lived in an apartment and I just wasn’t able to own a dog.  I did, however, really want some sort of animal in my household and so I took in a ferret.  Eventually I had a small group of three of them and they really are great pets.  More social than cats and almost as trainable as dogs, I would continue to be a ferret owner if their life spans were not so short (about 6-8 years).

English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the midd... English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the middle of a war dance jump. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In any case, recent research has indicated that ferrets are just about equal to dogs in terms of picking up social cues from humans.  It is assumed that this is the result of selective breeding, probably for other, specific traits, with the resulting side effect of greater social-cognitive skills.

 

Speaking of dogs, some Samurai dude in the 19th century decided to outfit his dog with a special set of armor.

And talking about warfare…Swords are pretty badass weapons as demonstrated by their use for thousands of years.  What would make them even more imposing?  Adding shark teeth, of course…

Finally, what would happen in a war broke out between the old school video games and the fancy-schmancy new ones?  Well, somebody thought of that…