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The Oscar Conspiracy

[ 0 ] February 2, 2006 |

Read this before you move on with the rest of your day.

Let me cite the illustrious Dave:

This is on my mind since Scott’s post today that had me reading the internet’s silliest source of right-wing Stalinist film criticism (This dimwit actually thought “welcome to the suck” on a Jarhead poster was left-wing Hollywood trying to tell us the Marines suck. You just can’t make that shit up.), but man am I glad I don’t view aesthetic objects like that. Imagine watching a brilliant comedy like this and finding it necessary to furrow your brow and blather on about “Keaton’s disturbing pro-Confederacy message.” What a miserable existence.

Yes. Thank God.

Via Ezra.

Got to be Kidding Me….

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Look, I think it’s absurd that taxpayer money is spent on baseball stadiums. It helps out a few very wealthy people at the expense of entire communities. However, I don’t think that people should try to fool themselves into thinking that the latest generation of ballparks (Camden Yards forward) aren’t profoundly superior to their predecessors. In the course of reading a Baseball Prospectus article by Neil deMause I came across this argument, which is hinted at by deMause here (subscription required):

The bigger problem here, though, is the assumption that new stadiums always amount to improvement of “fan enjoyment.” For the Mets, who play in one of the last surviving multipurpose concrete bowls, maybe so. For the Yankees, who’d be moving from a historic ballpark with great sightlines to one with an upper deck about 30 feet further from the action, and where the city itself estimates ticket prices would be $12 higher than in the current park (bleacher seats would go from $10 to a projected $21), not so much. And if revenue-sharing cash were used to tear down Fenway Park and build a cookie-cooker “retro” mallpark, you’d see John Kerry calling for a filibuster.

New stadiums are very good for things like cupholders and having your choice of salsa flavor on the nacho platters. As far as being able to see a ballgame goes, though, they often leave something to be desired.

And made outright by deMause here, where he compares Safeco Field to a minimum security prison:

At least, there’s a ballpark in there somewhere. Wrapped around a near clone of Camden Yards (here the grandstand extends around the rightfield section instead of left, and in place of the brick warehouse, one gets a view of the doomed dome) is a profusion of scoreboards, message screens, Jumbotrons, and advertising signage the likes of which humankind has never before seen. Strips of message board ring the main grandstand along the front of the thirty-six-dollar club seats, revealing such vital information as the results of the inning’s previous batters and the radar-detected speed of warm-up pitches. The center field bleachers rest atop an enormous rotating billboard, which changes every inning, while the scoreboard in left-center alternates between listing the out-of-town scores and running advertisements for the exquisitely named Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. Hovering over center field is an enormous video board sponsored by the web-broadcast company Real Networks-which promptly malfunctions, leaving a large square dark space occluding its crystal-clear replays and computer-generated animations for much of the game. For the ears, there are the latest stadium-friendly hits piped over high-fidelity speakers, punctuated by earthshaking blasts of steam whistle from passing Amtrak trains, echoing off the underside of the retractable roof. The full effect is like that of the progeny of a baseball stadium that’s been mated with a pinball machine.

And it’s a creature with a minimum-security prison in the heritage somewhere, as well, which becomes clear the first time I venture out to explore the park’s interior. Climb one of the few staircases that link the upper and lower decks at Safeco, and you will pass two levels accessible only via narrow doors, with ushers posted as guards. These are the suite and club levels, off-limits to the general public. I peer in through the gun-slit window of one to catch a brief glimpse of a sign proclaiming it the Honus Wagner Suite and a clutch of well-dressed people who probably would have Honus Wagner thrown out on his duff if he showed up, fresh from flinging lumps of coal at railcars to strengthen his arm. Then I hurry on to the lower concourse-where, despite the team’s promise that one can shop for stir-fried pepper steak and Jay Buhner inflatable bones without missing any of the game, I miss large swathes of the game, since the side open to the field is packed with standing-room fans who make it impossible to make out more than a patch or two of green.

Riiiggghhttt.

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone, anywhere, with the possible exception of Detroit, complain about the “ballpark” characteristics of any of the new parks. Even in Detroit, where you have a fair amount of residual affection for old Tiger Stadium, you still have a lot of people who prefer Comerica. Virtually everywhere else, including Seattle, you find that baseball fans like the new stadiums (which is different than saying that the stadiums were a good investment). deMause is apparently of the opinion that the baseball experience should have frozen at about 1932. Even that’s not quite right; I can only assume that deMause has seen lots of baseball games, being a baseball writer, but it seems from his essay almost as if he had never been to a major league (or even a minor league) park, but instead had watched games only from the grandstands in an Iowa cornfield, with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones standing by. The idea of advertising at a ball game! It’s positively plebeian!

I haven’t been to as many parks as I would like (about a dozen) but Safeco compares favorably with all but one or two. There are good reasons to oppose taxpayer funded stadiums (very good reasons), but to argue that the stadiums themselves are not, as a rule, better than their predecessors is a step too far.

Movie Blogging

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Blarg. I have successfully slogged through our archive searching for every post on the movies. They are now collected here, and will shortly be linked to on the sidebar.

God, you don’t realize how much blather it is until you sift through it all…

Betting Brokeback

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

I had been thinking that betting Brokeback for Best Picture would be nearly as safe as betting on the onset of summer, but 1/6 is pretty steep. Were I a betting man, I might put down just a bit on Heath Ledger at 9/2.

No serious surprises, as far as I can see. It’s a fair enough job when the best picture noms include two of my probable top five. Should have my 2005 top ten prepared by the end of the week, although I still have to see Munich and Match Point.

Military Exercises

[ 0 ] January 30, 2006 |

Budding Sinologist has some brief thoughts on what military exercises demonstrate about the competence of the People’s Liberation Army and the ROC military.

LGM Word Cloud

[ 0 ] January 29, 2006 |


Funky.

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.

Challenger

[ 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…

Destroyers

[ 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

QDR

[ 0 ] January 26, 2006 |

AG is doing some good work on the QDR. Pay attention.