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Archive for July, 2006

I Hate the Mouse

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

This is terrible:

The vast majority of films produced after 1923 have no continuing commercial value. They’re just sitting in vaults gathering dust. There’s obviously no need to extend their copyrights; if no one’s currently making any money off these films, they might as well enter the public domain. But thanks to the CTEA, they can’t. (A more sensible copyright law would have extended copyrights only for those owners who actually wanted to extend them; but that’s not the law Congress passed—all copyrights are affected.)

Now, these days, it’s cheap and easy to restore old films with digital technology—it can cost as little as $100 to digitize an hour of 8 mm film. Many of these films could, in theory, be easily restored, and released, or put in an archive, for people to watch. But thanks to the CTEA, it’s not cheap and easy. Anyone who wanted to restore one of these films would have to track down the owners of the copyright—no small task—and then hire a lawyer, lest they commit a felony. That’s way too much effort and expense just to restore some arcane old movie that only a few people might enjoy. So no one does it.

And the worst part is that by the time the copyright for a lot of these obscure films expires, in 2019 and beyond, the film for these movies—which were produced on nitrate-based stock—will have completely dissolved. They’ll just be canisters filled with dust. An entire generation of movies really will have vanished, never to be watched again. I guess it’s hardly the most important problem on the face of the earth, but culturally, it’s a tragedy, and a rather striking example of the insanity of copyright law.

Nothing like watching a country flush its cultural heritage so that Disney can make a few extra bucks.


Bandidos Yanqui

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

Last Wednesday Scott, Davida and I attended a game at Yankee Stadium, my first visit to that esteemed locale. The Braves were in town, which left me with the chore of having to cheer for one of the most unpalatable teams in baseball against the singular evil of the Yankees. It would have been worse, I suppose, if the Cubs had been in town.

I had been told not to expect much from Yankee; it was supposed to have all the ambience of a 70s stadium and all the comfort of a 20s stadium. That assessment wasn’t completely fair, though. The interior of Yankee is ramp crazy, like a typical donut. Indeed, it reminded me a lot of the Kingdome. The sight lines, however, were pretty good even from fairly high in the second deck. I felt closer to the field than I’ve felt at a lot of modern stadiums. The game was sold out, although many of the season ticket holders clearly weren’t in attendance.

Although I didn’t have any of the food, what I saw looked remarkably bad. Although I suppose it’s stupid to eat at the ballpark anyway, I actually kind of like the decent food selection that most new stadiums have. My biggest complaint, though, is about all the non-baseball garbage that happened between innings. You endure all of the stupid stuff that happens in Seattle, like the ball in a cap game, the hydro race, the rock and roll quiz, and worst of all the goddamn dancing groundskeepers, and you think to yourself “I’m sure they’d never put up with this crap at Yankee Stadium”. Then you find out that yes, they do put up with that crap at Yankee Stadium, and sing along to “YMCA” as the groundskeepers dance. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

Anyway, the Braves took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 12th, at which point they saw fit to trot out Jorge Sosa to face Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez. I very much doubt that I could have gotten even money on the Yankees at that point. Jeter grounded out to shortstop, and Giambi walked. Scott and I were just kind of hoping that Rodriguez would hit it hard at somebody, and our hopes were fulfilled. Unfortunately, the somebody was in the Braves bullpen at the time. We were on our way out before the ball hit the ground.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HIJMS Nagato

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

Even before the Washington Naval Treaty limited new construction, the Imperial Japanese Navy determined that it would never be able to match the USN in numbers. The Japanese solution was to achieve ship to ship superiority. The IJN was the first navy to use the 14″ gun (on Kongo), although the Americans soon matched this with New York and the British exceeded it with the 15″ guns of Queen Elizabeth. The IJN, which continued to have close ties with the Royal Navy, was particularly impressed by the British fast battleships, and decided that their next class of ships would be both fast and heavily armed.

The result was Nagato. Commissioned in 1920, Nagato was the first battleship in the world to carry 16″ guns, of which she had eight in four twin turrets. At 34000 tons she was one of the largest battleships in the world, and her 26 knot top speed exceeded even that of the Queen Elizabeths. Nagato was not as well armored as contemporary American battleships, but her speed should have made her a more useful and effective unit than the US ships. It can be fairly argued that Nagato and her sister Mutsu represented the zenith of battleship design prior to World War II. Especially when she had a swept back funnel, Nagato also looked dangerous and powerful

Nagato was modernized twice in the interwar period, the second refit giving her much heavier deck armor. She served as the flagship of the Combined Fleet for most of the interwar period, including the Pearl Harbor attack. Strangely for a ship of her speed and power, Nagato had a relatively quiet war record. She was part of the Main Body at Midway, but because Japanese naval practice of the time did not include deploying aircraft carriers with battleship protection, she saw no action. This was determined to be a grievous flaw in Japanese doctrine; Nagato, Yamato, and their sisters were fast enough to escort the Japanese carriers, and might have provided some anti-aircraft protection against American attacks. Nagato also did not participate in the Solomons campaign, although, again, her speed was sufficient to “run the Slot” and attack Henderson Field. This, again, was a major error; instead of using their (temporary) advantage in surface warships in the Solomons, the Japanese conserved their most powerful units.

In June 1943, Nagato lost her sister, Mutsu, to a magazine explosion. The Combined Fleet evacuated Truk for ports in Southeast Asia at the end of 1943, and prepared to fight the US invasion of the Philippines. Nagato participated in the Battle of Philippine Sea as a carrier escort, vainly attempting to prevent the destruction of her charge Hiyo. In October 1944 Nagato was attached to Admiral Kurita’s strike force, designed to attack the American escort carriers and transports of Leyte. Although the Japanese plan successfully drew off the escorting American battleships, the attack was disrupted by a group of destroyers and destroyer escorts. Four battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy managed to sink a couple of destroyers and a single escort carrier before fleeing under air attack. Nagato took several bomb hits during and after the action.

Nagato eventually limped back to Japan with the remnants of Kurita’s force, which lost the battlecruiser Kongo along the way. Nagato was drydocked, but the IJN lacked both the materials needed for repair and the fuel necessary to making Nagato operational again. Nagato was reclassified as a coastal defense ship, and did not participate in the final actions of the war. A few additional air attacks damaged, but failed to destroy, the aging battleship. Indeed, the Japanese were able to conduct enough repairs and assemble enough fuel to make a final sortie in case of an American landing attempt. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki rendered this moot, however. When Japan surrendered, Nagato was the sole surviving IJN battleship.

There was no need to incorporate a 25 year old, badly damaged Japanese battleship into the USN. Nevertheless, the United States found a use for Nagato. The Bikini atom bomb tests were about to begin, and the Navy wanted to know what happened when atomic bombs were dropped on ships. Along with Prinz Eugen, the last survivor of the German Navy, and dozens of old American ships, Nagato would serve as a guinea pig for the atomic age. An American crew took control of Nagato and began the necessary repairs, under the advice of its former Japanese officers. On March 18 Nagato set out for Eniwetok under her own power. The journey almost proved too much; Nagato began taking on water, and a blown boiler stopped her dead. Repairs were executed, however, and Nagato took her place for the bomb tests. The first bomb, dropped on July 1, exploded about 1500 yards from Nagato and did only insignificant damage to her superstructure. Notably, Nagato held up better than the American battleships nearby, and was studied for several days by American engineers. On July 24th, a second bomb was detonated underwater. Nagato rode out the blast without incident, but was rendered far too radioactive for further boarding. She began, very slowly, to settle, and sank on July 29.

Nagato is one of my favorite battleships. Aesthetically, I find the pagoda mast very elegant when combined with the four turret arrangement. Technically, Nagato was an impressive ship, comparing well with her foreign contemporaries and useful until the end of World War II. Ideally Nagato would have been preserved, but the political context in both Japan and the United States at the end of World War II made this impossible, of course.

(Images courtesy of Maritimequest)

Trivia: What battleship was saved by an earthquake?

Wit At The New York Times Book Review?

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

Echidne and Amanda have already addressed Ana Marie Cox’s airheaded non-review of Katha Pollit’s new book. One of its many idiotic points was to claim that Pollit must be kidding when she said that were it not for liberals “there’’d be mouse feet in your breakfast cereal.” In the print edition Cox’s review was opposite a review…of two biographies of Upton Sinclar, whose most famous novel Cox would apparently benefit from reading. I’d really like to think this was intentional…


[ 0 ] July 1, 2006 |

Admittedly, this has long been obvious, but is there any better example of the depths to which the National Review has fallen than that it’s willing to hire Mark Levin as its primary online legal analyst?

And, of course, proponents of unreguable executive power pretty much have to pretend that Article I doesn’t exist. After all, if the Framers felt that executive power should be plenary with respect to any warmaking powers, it would be rather odd to express this belief by formally dividing power between the branches…

Sacre Blues!

[ 0 ] July 1, 2006 |

Wow, when I was just there the press and public were just savaging the French team; I’m guessing that’s now inoperative. But between that and the Mets pummelling the Yanks, Long Workout Day sure seemed a lot shorter…

Randy offers a postmortem from the Brazlian perspective.

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