So What is This?

If only blogs had come along before I had a life, I'm sure I could have been a heck of a blogger. But there's no way I'm doing that now, much as I enjoy reading them. So this site is a more slo-mo affair, in which I try to comment not on current events, but on more persistent interests, amusements, and outrages.

Just like us: The Great War

An amazing selection of photos from “The Great War”. What struck me is how much these recruits, many of them to die within weeks, look like you or me or anyone.

Listen Up!

There are no great wars. There are no good wars.

And no, I'm not criticizing people in the Armed Forces — there but for fortune.

The Pogues sing “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”

Here's a good outrage:

Fatuous swine like CEO and self-appointed savant Charlie Eitel, are part of a large, legal racket which destroys and bankrupts perfectly good companies. The basics of this scam, now referred to as “private equity” date back to the LBO era of the early 80s. Buy a company with borrowed money, then loot it, strip it, borrow more money and in general wreck the joint - then leave other investors and employees holding the bag while you ride off into the sunset with a bale of money.

Why do these scum operate with impunity? Because they make billions and can buy off “our” government with a few million spread around here and there. In other words, it's their country, which just live in it. Or so it would seem.

Fun link du jour: Harry The Hipster Gibson - 4-F Ferdinand

Harry the Hipster was one of those odd American characters. Apparently a bit of a speed freak, which I think you can see in the video. Probably best known for the parody “Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine.” I wish I’d met him, but I never did. Goodnight Mr. Gibson, wherever you are.

Quote du jour:

“Not only have individual financial institutions become less vulnerable to shocks from underlying risk factors, but also the financial system as a whole has become more resilient.” — Alan Greenspan in 2004

From This great New York Times article.

General Fun Stuff

A very nice essay on health care by Roger Ebert.

Goldman Sachs is running our government...

One in Four American Children are on Food Stamps

Stuff I Particularly Like

Joe Bageant: Another Educated Redneck

A friend of mine was once accused, by someone meaning to insult him, of being "just an educated redneck." My friend took it as a high compliment.

Joe Bageant is somewhere between a journalist, a popular philosopher, and a political pundit. He lives in Winchester, VA and knows red states and rednecks up close and personal. One of the most interesting thinkers and writers on what passes for American culture at the beginning of the 21st century. Here is a typically wonderful piece. And what the heck here's another one.

James Howard Kunstler: An Extremely Annoying Person

James Howard Kunstler sometimes annoys even those who generally agree with him (about modern architecture, about the fact that we're running out of cheap oil). He's a wise ass, like the kid in 8th grade who would always find a flaw in the teacher's logic and then rub everyone's nose in it. That's one of the things I like about him. I was one of those kids too.

His book "The Long Emergency" is a great and (these days) rare thing — an attempt by a generalist to take on a really big topic. To me, it paints a very convincing picture of what might happen as we pass "Peak Oil" and head down the other side of the slope, and it's not pretty. His website has a lot of fun essays and the ever-amusing "eyesore of the month." When it comes to modern architecture, Kunstler and I see eye to eye: we came, we saw, we did not drink the Kool Aid.

Robert Altemeyer: Read up on Authoritarians

The Authoritarians is a web-only (PDF) book on authoritarian personalities by Robert Altemeyer, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba.

I know. Sounds like one of those worthy but hideously boring things that you "really ought to read someday." But nope! Altemeyer writes in a clear, friendly, humorous manner and the book is intended for a general audience — no charts or statistics, since if you're so inclined, you can read those in his academic work. Truly full of fascinating and thought-provoking stuff, even if you've read and thought quite a bit about the general subject.


I really don't know much about these guys, which I guess makes me an objective observer. They pull together stuff from a variety of sources, write some of their own, and always have something interesting up there, every day. The stories focus on issues of substance, not on the strident bullshit of day-to-day partisan infighting. Plus the layout is easy on the eye.

Barefoot Gen

Keiji Nakazawa witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima as a boy. Later on he had a career in cartooning and advertising. His first cartoon on Hiroshima was a bit of an expriment, but he was encouraged by his editor to return to the subject. And he did. In varying forms, he returned to the autobiographical story of the boy “Barefoot Gen” many times over the years, eventually producing a body of work that makes up a 10-volume, 3,000-page graphic novel(!). If that sounds a little intimidating, it's not, really. Gen is an amazing character, full of fight, hope, and humor. The tale of the bomb and how he and his family survived (or did not survive) both the attack and its long aftermath is incredible. Parts of the book are horrific, but other parts are very funny, and it also gives you a picture of 1940s and 50s Japan very different from what you'll see on the Military History Channel.

I am somewhere in the middle on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks.  I don't think they were necessary to end the war, but I also think that the Japanese did many terrible things during the war which makes it quite understandable that they were treated with no mercy whatsoever. They sowed the wind, and they reaped the whirlwind. However, one thing “Barefoot Gen” makes clear is that not every person in Japan was necessarily responsible for the nation’s war conduct, and that even when they did participate, they did so for a variety of motives and with differing degrees of commitment.

I felt that I had to say something about my views because the subject is so politically inflamed, but mostly what I have to say is read the book. Some parts are a bit hard to handle, but I think teenagers as well as adults will enjoy and learn from “Barefoot Gen.” Folks who are just forming their opinions about subjects like war and nuclear weapons will benefit from the fact that, well, Mr. Nakazawa was there. The books are a dose of reality from a witness. Even people who may consider themselves experts on WW II will find much food for thought.

Part of the reason I list the links is because Amazon has somehow managed to mess up the listings for the books, making them very hard to find via their search. The full set will set you back about $120. I would recommend ordering the first two and seeing what you think.

Last Updated December 18, 2009