Sunday, July 27, 2014

Star Wars: 10 Reasons The Galactic Empire Wasn’t As Bad As Everyone Thinks



The Galactic Empire have had to deal with something of a bad image since Star Wars was first released in 1977, but that’s what happens when you lack a PR guy to tell you not to make Darth Vader the public face of government. Of course, it could also have something to do with the huge Imperial Navy, relentless brutality and the use of super weapons like the Death Star, too.
None of these actions are particularly virtuous, of course, and it is understandable as to why so many believe that the Empire was evil… but if you look deeper, it’s possible to see past those first impressions. Examining the Empire closely, it becomes clear that – instead of an inherently bad government – you can actually see a group of people who are trying to do their best for the good of the entire galaxy. You can view their actions in a much more positive light – in fact, many of the decisions they made actually make sense.
After all, if you look at what the Empire replaced in the Old Republic and the Jedi, you start to realise just how hurtful those organisations were for the general population. In some ways, the Empire can seem like the much better option and there are some really strong reasons for why they were not as bad as they have been made out…

Here's the list.

Before the 110 Freeway.


Driving through the Figueroa Street Tunnels might be one of L.A.'s most dramatic freeway experiences. As you plunge through the first Art Deco portal, the downtown skyline recedes in your rear-view mirror. A minute later, leaving the last of the four bores, you enter the world of the Arroyo Seco Parkway: sycamore trees, sweeping curves, and arched bridges.
The tunnels weren't always part of the state freeway system. Built between 1930 and 1936 by the city of Los Angeles, they originally carried Figueroa Street through the rugged terrain ofElysian Park. Two lanes traveled in either direction, separated by white double stripes. Pedestrians were welcome, if not expected; a single five-foot sidewalk (since removed) ran alongside the forty-foot wide roadway.

More.

On ice cream trucks, memory, and race in America



Can ice cream be racist? The question has lately caused a small dustup—and, as you might imagine, the issue is larger than ice cream. It is, in fact, indicative of a certain psychic roadblock in enlightened black thought of late.

It started with Theodore R. Johnson III, writing on NPR’s blog to tell us that when we hear an ice cream truck play “Turkey in the Straw,” we must understand that the tune has racist origins. Johnson points out that when ice cream trucks started playing the tune in the 1920s, it was not long after the tune had been tricked out repeatedly with racist lyrics—including a minstrel-show perennial called “Zip Coon,” not to mention an awful pre-World War I version he unearthed with the lyric “Nigger Love a Watermelon, Ha Ha Ha.” Furthermore, because ice cream parlors played minstrel songs in the nineteenth century, people in the 1920s and 1930s would have associated “Turkey in the Straw” with its unsavory alternate versions. In response to Johnson, I wrote that by the time those trucks existed, people thought of the tune as simply “Turkey in the Straw,” a song about the farm. No evidence exists that ice cream parlors were ever sites uniquely associated with racist music.

Read the whole thing.

Miss Vikki Dougan, the real life Jessica Rabbit.

While actress Veronica Lake is typically assumed to be the muse behind Jessica Rabbit, it was the lesser-known and near-forgotten Vicki Dougan along with her notorious derrrière that really put Jessica on the map. Pin-up girl turned (struggling) actress, Vicki earned herself the nickname, “The Back” in 1950s Hollywood for so often wearing her outrageously provocative backless dresses.

The article is here.

Jumpin Jive - Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers

The Great Liberal Hobby Lobby Freak-out



Social liberalism is becoming illiberal. That is the only conclusion that can be reached from the unhinged reaction to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which was being mischaracterized before it was even handed down.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren—or perhaps an intern speaking in her name—tweeted, “Can't believe we live in a world where we'd even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”

Read the whole thing.

Chicago Alleys



An amazing little article on something so many in Chicago take for granted.

New Beginnings

I've neglected this blog. It was once, very much  a labor of love, taking up the bulk of my free time. But then it sort of fell away. My life was confused and in a state of flux and my desire to weigh in on the great events of the day was pretty much non-existent.

Life is a funny thing though. Things have settled down. I've found a good woman, a job I enjoy-I feel happy and content for the first time in a long time.

In that spirit, I've decided to start posting again. We'll see how long it lasts. I suspect I'll be busy and have a hard time sticking to it. Still, better to try and fail than to not try at all.

More to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Were Swords Really Made?

It must first be appreciated that a sword is unlike any other object. There is nothing else to which it can really be analogous. It is a fighting tool, but it is not simply a giant knife or a huge razorblade nor is it just a heavy hunk of long flat metal with a handle. A sword is a unique instrument with its own functional properties dependent upon its design. 
  
As a tool the sword was the premier personal weapon of the professional warrior and unlike other weapons, such as bows, spears, axes, daggers, etc., which were also used in hunting and could be made by any craftsman, a sword was made by a skilled specialist. This man was a swordsmith or a bladesmith. He would actually “smith” a blade. Through his talent and experience he worked by hand to carefully shape and then temper iron into finely crafted steel. He didn’t simply grind and polish a pre-made piece of cold metal with a few tools. 

More here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jacques Barzun has died.



Jacques Barzun, the distinguished historian, essayist, cultural gadfly and educator who helped establish the modern discipline of cultural history and came to see the West as sliding toward decadence, died Thursday night in San Antonio, where he lived. He was 104. 

 I'll miss him. he was one of a handful of people who profoundly influenced my view of history and the world. Godspeed. 

The obituary is here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Fantasy Election, an Imaginary Man

Even before his inauguration, Barack Obama was an imaginary man, the creation of his admirers. Think back to the 2008 Time magazine cover depicting him as FDR, the Newsweek cover of the same year on which he was shown casting Lincoln’s shadow, or the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”—this in 2009, less than a year after he had taken office. It was not that Obama had done nothing to deserve these outsized comparisons and honors—it was not just that he had done nothing—it was that he seemed for all the world to be a blank screen on which such hysterical fantasies could too easily be projected, a two-dimensional paper doll just waiting to be dressed in leftist dreams.

More here.

La Marche des Cuirassiers

Open Your Mouth and You're Dead

The freediving world championships occur at the outer limits of competitive risk. ­During the 2011 event, held off the coast of Greece, more than 130 athletes assembled to swim hundreds of feet straight down on a single breath—without (they hoped) ­passing out, freaking out, or drowning.

The article is here

Can Loosening Development Restrictions Restore Affordability?

A basic point I'd raise is that in almost all times and places, the solution for urban population growth has not been vertical densification, but outwards expansion into greenfield areas. Historically, dramatic vertical growth was the product of exceptional circumstances, generally related to the presence of city walls paired with external military threats discouraging sub-urban construction, or the occasional imperial mega-city. More

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teller Reveals His Secrets

Magic is an art, as capable of beauty as music, painting or poetry. But the core of every trick is a cold, cognitive experiment in perception: Does the trick fool the audience? A magician’s data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists—well intentioned as they are—are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries. MRI machines are awesome, but if you want to learn the psychology of magic, you’re better off with Cub Scouts and hard candy. More.

The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

In short, the only thing exceptional about America is that it has resisted the transformation that European nations have undergone into social welfare states. The above interpretation of the "true" nature of America is widely taught at American universities--sometimes subtly, more commonly openly--as if it is gospel. More insidiously, despite the university's reputation as a place where a student is exposed to numerous different ideas, the "wisdom" encapsulated above is passed on as if it is irrefutably established truth, and students risk grade and opprobrium if they challenge it. This smells more like indoctrination than education to me. More here.

Mercantilism in Spain

The seeming prosperity and glittering power of Spain in the 16th century proved a sham and an illusion in the long run. For it was fuelled almost completely by the influx of silver and gold from the Spanish colonies in the New World. In the short run, the influx of bullion provided a means by which the Spanish could purchase and enjoy the products of the rest of Europe and Asia; but in the long run, price inflation wiped out this temporary advantage. More here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This morning I found a dead turkey by the side of the road...



I'm assuming it was trying to cross the road and was hit by a car.