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Archive for January, 2006

LGM Word Cloud

[ 0 ] January 29, 2006 |



Going It Alone

[ 0 ] January 29, 2006 |

My first reaction to reading the Slate article on art-houses that Rob discusses below was to be both amused and contemptuous of this particular manifestation of contraianism-through-not-very-credible-random-anecdotes (has anyone ever seen routine laughing at non-subtitled bits?), but to realize that at least it was more harmless than using this method to, say, defend the overturning of Roe from a “pro-choice” perspective. My second reaction was that given his remarkably prissy conformism that we may have uncovered the secret identity of “Ivan Tribble,” except that Tribble is too much of a Philistine to even claim to be seen anywhere near an arthouse. Until lemurgrrl pointed it out in comments, though, I hadn’t noticed his concluding comment, which does address a more common phenomenon: “Try this thought experiment: You’d go to an art house by yourself. When would you ever do that at a multiplex?” Um, well, it’s not a thought experiment, but yes. I’ve done so many times. Why not? I’ve never understood this idea that there’s something strange about going to movies alone.

Now, I will admit that I’m probably on the other end of the spectrum. I do things alone all the time–such as eating out–that most people find awkward. (This is partly being in an urban environment, I suppose–I don’t have a study at home, so I do a lot of reading and writing outside the house.) And there are things that, while I’m willing to go to by myself, are unquestionably better with friend(s). I go to Shea by myself all the time, for example, but when I lived in Seattle I almost never went to games alone because I knew lots of people who liked baseball. Baseball is definitely more fun with another fan (although seeing it alone live is certainly better than TV.) I will also admit that I have my own irrational situation where I dislike being alone: live music. Especially at small shows, I feel awkward and self-conscious by myself, for whatever reason, and will sometimes skip shows if I can’t find another interested party.

But movies? What the hell difference does it make? You’re sitting in the dark and can’t (or, rather, shouldn’t) say anything. I suppose it’s fun to be able to discuss it afterward (although in my experience post-movie discussion tends to move away from the film pretty quickly), and I guess it has date advantages: low-pressure early relationship date, good date for existing relationship where you spend lots of time with each other. (Although the lack of conversation can also be a disadvantage; the fact that there’s no conversation can make movies a crappy date, and also a bad way of catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.) But even if one marginally prefers to go with someone else, which I suppose I do too (although not enough to go see movies I don’t want to see), why on earth would anyone think it’s necessary? Why on earth would you skip a movie you want to see just because you can’t find anyone else to go to that movie at that time, whether it’s playing an an arthouse or a googleplex? I find this genuinely incomprehensible.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Hood

[ 0 ] January 29, 2006 |

Hood was the name ship of what was supposed to be a class of four battlecruisers ordered near the close of World War I. Shortly before Hood was laid down, three British battlecruisers exploded and sank at the Battle of Jutland. Hood’s design was re-worked to improve her protection, especially around the magazines. Unfortunately, the redesign was haphazard, and the Royal Navy realized that Hood had some serious protection and weight problems. Hood’s three sisters were scrapped before launching, and the Royal Navy started over with a new class of large battlecruisers.

Nevertheless, Hood was an impressive warship. Her armour was more extensive and thorough than any other battlecruiser of her day, giving her nearly as much protection as the Queen Elizabeth class battleships. Hood was 860′ long, displaced 48000 tons, and carried 8 15″ guns. This made her, by a fair margin, the largest warship in the world. Hood could make 31 knots, which meant she was also the fastest battleship afloat.

In addition to being the fastest and the largest, the Mighty Hood was probably the most famous battleship of the interwar period. She made several cruises to various ports to “show the flag” and demonstrate the power of the Royal Navy. Hood was an impressive looking ship, although true naval aesthetes tended to prefer the smaller, more balanced HMS Tiger. Hood was one of three battlecruisers retained by the Royal Navy under the terms of the 1930 London Naval Treaty. Although British battlecruisers have been criticized for their tendency to explode when fired upon, these three ships proved far more useful to the Royal Navy than the slow battleships retained by other fleets. Indeed, it probably would have been a better move to keep Tiger in 1930 and discard one of the R class battleships.

Hood was such a valuable unit that the Royal Navy, in the interwar period, could not bear to be without her. This was unfortunate. Hood was scheduled for a major overhaul in 1941, but the onset of war made this impossible. The Royal Navy simply lacked the fast ships to spare Hood for an extended period of time. Hood spent 1939 and most of 1940 patrolling for German raiders, although she never encountered either a pocket battleship nor one of the Scharnhorst class. This was probably fortunate for the Germans, for while Hood was old, she was still large enough and powerful enough to deal with most of the new German ships. In July 1940, Hood led the force that attacked the French fleet at Mers El Kebir, destroying Bretagne and damaging Dunkerque and Provence. Hood stripped a turbine chasing the French battlecruiser Strasbourg.

By 1940 the “naval holiday” imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty was clearly over. New battleships were coming into service, and these new ships took advantage of twenty years of technological developments. Most of the new ships carried heavy armaments, heavy armour, and could make high speeds. Largest of these new ships (at least until the commissioning of Yamato in late 1941) was the German battleship Bismarck. Bismarck left Kiel in May 1941 for a raiding cruise in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, only Hood and the new battleship Prince of Wales were available for interception. The rest of the fleet was too slow, in refit, or deployed in other areas.

Hood and Prince of Wales found Bismarck on May 24 in the Denmark Straits, between Greenland and Iceland. Rear Admiral Lancelot Holland knew that Hood was vulnerable to Bismarck’s guns, especially at long range, and decided to close as quickly as possible. This meant that Bismarck would have time to fire full broadsides against Hood and Prince of Wales during the approach. The crew of Bismarck was well acquainted with Hood. I recall watching a documentary on the battle several years ago in which a surviving German sailor described the mood on Bismarck as grim when it became widely known that Hood had found them. Even in the Kriegsmarine, Hood was widely believed to be the most powerful ship in the world. Bismarck was accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, and Admiral Holland unfortunately mistook the latter for the former, ordering fire to be concentrated against the cruiser. This allowed Bismarck to fire without interference. Hood was struck early by an 8″ shell, setting fire to her deck but not seriously threatening the ship.

At about 6am, Hood turned to bring her aft guns into play against Bismarck. A salvo from Bismarck struck her amidships, and she exploded. The exact cause of the explosion has never been ascertained, although multiple theories persist. Hood sank very, very quickly. A fair number of crew members escaped the immediate destruction of the ship only to be pulled into the vortex that accompanied her sinking. Only three sailors, from a crew of 1418, escaped the wreck. It is thought that an enormous air bubble escaped from the engine room and buoyed the three survivors to the surface. They were rescued by the destroyer Elektra. One, Ted Briggs, is still alive and lives in southern England.

Filibuster Alito

[ 0 ] January 28, 2006 |

The Alito filibuster fight is on. Of particular interest to our Washington state readers: according to Jane, “Maria Cantwell is reportedly quite wobbly, and might be susceptible to pressure. If Cantwell falls, Murray will potentially fall too.” Senators from one of the most pro-choice states in the country shouldn’t be even in the “maybe” column. Let Cantwell and Murray know that you don’t want to see Roe v. Wade gutted or overturned.

I’ve already explained why the Dems should obviously filibuster Alito
, who is likely to be the most reactionary justice appointed to the Supreme Court since James McReynolds retired in 1941. The short version is this: the Democrats need to make it clear what they stand for, and what the Republicans stand for. The Democrats stand for Roe v. Wade; the Republicans stand for poor women being forced by state coercion to choose between carrying unwanted pregnancies to term or unsafe illegal abortions (while, of course, the daughters of wealthy Republicans maintain control of their bodies.) The Democrats stand for a presidency constrained by law; the Republicans stand for arbitrary presidential power. The Democrats stand for the fair enforcement of laws protecting workers from unfair discrimination; the Republicans for largely unchecked corporate power. It’s that simple. Senators have the constitutional authority to protect the hard-won liberties of the American people, and they should exercise that authority.

Mary Kay has the Senators’ emails too.


[ 0 ] January 28, 2006 |

Wow. Twenty years since the Challenger explosion; I recall that we were supposed to watch the liftoff on TV at school, but were delayed for some reason. I guess that saved the teachers the trouble of dealing with a few hundred traumatized elementary school students. That was at John McLaughlin Elementary in Oregon City, Oregon. Sixth grade, Ms. Foster’s class.

I feel old.

Art House?

[ 0 ] January 28, 2006 |

Does this sound even vaguely similar to any experience you’ve had in an art house movie theater? Maybe I attend the wrong ones…

PA Elections: Outsourcing

[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

I would like to say something about the PA elections. Except that what I would say pretty much boils down to 1)the election of an eliminationist anti-Semitic terrorist organization is very decidedly suboptimal in a variety of respects, and 2)the theory that the Iraq invasion would unleash a wave of pro-American and pro-Israeli democracies throughout the middle east looks even more idiotic then it did last year. But you all know this. So, instead, I’ll say Jonathan and Hilzoy speak, you listen.


[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

This is an interesting (if dated) little article on the difference that a century makes in naval architecture. In spite of the profound changes that have occured, I am nonetheless inclined to think that USS Mississippi shares much more in common with the DD(X) than it did with the ships-of-the-line of the Napoleonic War. However advanced the DD(X) may be, it’s basic form and structure remain similar to to the pattern established by HMS Warrior in the 1860s.

[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Panda

But You Have To Admit…He’s Still Better Than Zell Miller

[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

I’ve seen more than one blogger compare reactionary Senate hopeful Bob Casey Jr. to Joe “Easiest Lay On The White House Lawn” Lieberman. As it turns out, this is unfair…to Lieberman. As Thad points out in comments, even Holy Joe isn’t rolling over on Alito. For any blue-state “Democrat” to endorse Alito is just a joke.

Alas, two more Democrats will join the Republican effort to gut Roe, civil rights and the Fourth Amendment. Somehow, I’m guessing that Robert Byrd’s erstwhile Klan membership is about to be mentioned a lot less often in the right end of the blogosphere for a couple weeks…

Will Saletan Is Wrong About Abortion, Part MCXVI

[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

Phoebe Maltz uncovers yet another glaring piece of illogic in Will Saletan’s recent abortion op-ed. Saletan infers from the fact that most women would prefer to avoid a pregnancy than to have an abortion the conclusion that women therefore consider abortion to be highly immoral. But, of course, as Maltz explains this is (like pretty much every claim in his op-ed) an obvious non-sequitur:

Something is very wrong with this jump. There are reasons to want the number of abortions to be low rather than high that have nothing whatsoever to do with believing that “the simplest thing” is that “[i]t’s bad to kill a fetus.” It’s also bad to have a potentially expensive and painful medical procedure, to have weeks or months of unwanted pregnancy. Let’s say you don’t floss your teeth often enough and then discover you have a cavity. You can go to the dentist and have this fixed, you won’t be happy about it, you’ll regret your carelessness, but you will not be tortured by this incident for the rest of your life.

To those who are pro-choice, the “simplest thing” is that abortion is not murder, that nobody is “killed” by the procedure. Abortion is an undesirable outcome, and even pro-choice activists are right to advocate better sex education and access to birth control, so that this outcome can be avoided wherever possible.

This is correct. Some women prefer to avoid abortions because they consider abortions immoral–but many women do not, and certainly the banal proposition that abortion is generally a suboptimal outcome when compared to never having an unwanted pregnancy doesn’t provide any evidence for his inference.

(I also like this post on the less-serious topic of retroactively admitted crushes. Admittedly, I’m generally too cowardly to admit it even after the fact, but I recognize it now that it’s been pointed out…)

Wanking in Powerpoint

[ 0 ] January 27, 2006 |

Dennis the Peasant presents the advertising pitch of Flatulent Bathrobe Media (TM), which is the pure comic gold that you’d expect. It’s hard to isolate the very funniest thing amidst the ungrammatical gobbeldygook, but I particularly enjoyed the claim that the average Little Green Footballs reader has an average income (oh, I mean, “mean average” income–I wonder what the “most commonly occurring mode” income was?) of “over $105,000.” Yeah, if Warren Buffet reads the site 30 times a day…I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that studies that rely on self-reported income are about as reliable as self-reporting on genitalia size in Penthouse Forum.

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