Nelson’s Last Ride: The Battle Of Tsushima

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Contemporary Japanese print illustrating the Battle.

It’s May 14th, 1905 A.D, and a tableau is being spread across the dark waters of the Sea of Korea. Two columns of warships steam slowly north past the isle of Tsushima. This is the 2nd Pacific Squadron of the Imperial Russian Navy, under the command of Admiral ‘Mad Dog’ Rozhestvensky. He leads the first column in his flagship, the Suvoroff, followed by his three other modern predreadnought battleships. The battleship Oslyabya leads the second line, a motley collection of three obsolete battleships and three coastal-defense ships. They have traveled a long wide to arrive here, 29,000 kilometers and eight months away from their homeports in the Baltic Sea. The men are weary, the ships in desperate need of repair, and supplies are running low. Their main hope by now is no longer victory, but escape. If they can slip undetected through the Sea of Korea, they have a hope of arriving safely at Vladivostok. But it is not to be. The merchant cruiser Shinano Maru has been trailing the Czarist vessels since the early hours of the morning, keeping the Japanese Admiralty fully appraised of their whereabouts.

At At 1:40 PM, they appear out appear out of the mist. It’s been four months since the remaining Russian naval presence in the Far East was scuttled after the Fall of Port Arthur, and since then the Japanese ships have been able to remain in port, training, undergoing maintenance, and preparing for the final clash of arms. Admiral Rozhestvensky has been adrift for nearly a year. Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō left port merely nine hours before, transmitting a soon-to-be-legendary final message to his superiors as his ships steam forth: “In response to the warning that enemy ships have been sighted, the Combined Fleet will immediately commence action and attempt to attack and destroy them. Weather today fine but high waves”.

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Anxiety In Kiki’s Delivery Service

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It’s such a good movie y’all

Kiki’s Delivery Service was one of my favorite movies as a child, and it holds up wonderfully. It’s a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story about a young witch who must go out into the world and begin her training. Kiki leaves her childhood in a small country town, moves to a metropolis, gets a job as a flying delivery girl, learns to live independently, discovers romance, has a spiritual and psychological crisis of confidence, and emerges at the end as a fully self-actualized person, confident in herself and her abilities. Like a lot of Miyazaki movies, there isn’t really a villain; the story is more internal than anything else, with Kiki having to overcome self-doubts and fears to rise to meet her potential. That’s specifically what I want to talk about today.

Kiki’s character in the movie is shown as being very extroverted, almost alarmingly so. She wants to be friends with everyone she meets and she’s looking for ways to help people. In fact, early in the movie one of the crises she faces is coming to terms with living in a huge, impersonal city. It would be ridiculous to call her shy. But at the same time, she very clearly suffers from a lot of social anxiety. Technically speaking, the climax of the movie features Kiki losing her ability to do magic and then having to regain so as to rescue her friend who is carried away by a runaway dirigible. But the emotional crisis she faces seems to be wholly psychological: she wants to make friends and have a social life, but she keeps sabotaging herself and she doesn’t know why. I doubt I noticed that aspect of the film much when I watching it as a kid, but it’s inescapable to me now. I’ve been dealing with social anxiety my whole life, and it’s shocking to me how well Kiki’s Delivery Service portrays it.

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Bring Back Anti-Clericalism!

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Accurate

Last week, the Republic of Ireland held a referendum, in which a massive majority voted to clear the way to legalizing abortion. Hooray! This is a good thing. But something I noted with interest was how often the discussion of the issue was framed as a debate over clericalism, and more specifically, over the role and power of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Historically, of course, Ireland was notorious for being a conservative, Catholic nation, virtually a theocracy up through much of the 20th Century. “An unfortunate priest-ridden race”, as James Joyce described his people. But that’s changed. In the last few decades, a rolling series of scandals has rocked the power of the Church in Ireland—revelations about the cruelty and abuses of the Magdalene Laundries, multiple reports on how the Vatican (as late as 2009!) worked to cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests, the discovery of mass graves of babies beneath Catholic institutions, etc. In this most recent debate, it was notable how low a profile the Church kept, reportedly due to their decision that intervention against repeal of the 8th Amendment would hurt the cause more than it would help it.

 

I urge everybody to watch the above video. For those without the time, it’s a speech given by the former Taoiseach of Ireland, Enda Kenny in response to the Cloyne Report, the results of one of the many damming investigations into the ways in which the Irish Church chose to protect rapists and abusers within it’s ranks. Much of the speech is what you’d expect; Kenny expresses outrage at the crimes committed and talks about how his government is responding. But he also makes one simple point:

  1. Ireland is a secular, democratic Republic.
  2. The Papacy has been attempting to set itself above the Republic of Ireland’s laws.
  3. This will not be tolerated.

This is Anti-Clericalism.

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Megan McArdle Is Wrong

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Gahhh

Megan McArdle is a bad writer who usually writes bad takes but her recent article was bad on a level I haven’t seen before, and as a grumpy person on the internet I felt the need to respond.

McArdle herself was responding to the recent Kevin Williamson controversy, where he was fired from the Atlantic due to his ongoing support for the execution of 25% of American women. Her argument is simple. Conservatives are an oppressed minority who deserve special considerations and protection in the workplace. To wit:

Remarkably, through the miracle of modern mass media, liberals have managed to give this experience, not to a handful of conservatives in mainstream cultural production, but to virtually every American conservative. Those conservatives spend the first few decades of their lives in a left-skewed educational system, and the rest consuming cultural products made by liberals, so that liberal cultural hegemony barrages them daily with their “otherness.” Which is how they can sincerely feel powerless despite holding a great deal of political power……As for liberals: Well, guys, check your privilege. Try to really imagine what it might be like to have a conservative identity when cultural products almost all skew liberal. That is, to be one of the few acceptable villains for all the movies and jokes and television shows. To see your viewpoint systematically excluded and slighted. To have your daily life, your beliefs, routinely handled with ignorance and insensitivity.

This is profoundly stupid. I shall attempt to enumerate the reasons why:

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BOOK REVIEW: The Mirage

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TITLE: The Mirage

AUTHOR: Matt Ruff

PUBLISHER: Harper Perennial

DATE: 2012 

The Mirage is the first book I’m covering here that I’m ambiguous about. Or perhaps that’s not entirely fair—it’s certainly one of my favorite alternate history books. But while my praises for the previous two entries in this column were fairly definite, The Mirage is a book that I’ve always felt didn’t quite live up to it’s potential. It’s a very good book that maybe wanted to be a great book. Or maybe it’s better to say it’s a very good book with some serious holes in the thematic tapestry, if that’s not getting too pretentious. I’m going to try and pick through it today, and pull out the elements that work and those that don’t, and try to articulate my complex feelings about The Mirage.

(BTW: SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING)

BACKGROUND:

On November 11th, 2001, Christian fundamentalist terrorists hijack four airliners. Two are rammed into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Center in Baghdad, one into the Arab Ministry of Defense in Riyadh. The fourth crashes in the Rub’ al Khali. In response, the government of the United Arab States declares a ‘War on Terror’ and invades America. Nearly a decade later, in 2009, the fighting is still ongoing, and Arab Homeland Security Agent Mustafa al Baghdadi is working nonstop to protect his homeland from Christian “crusaders”. But prisoners interrogations have begun to reveal a strange new belief among these fanatics; a claim that the entire world is just a “mirage”, and that in the true reality, America rules the world and the Middle East is a war-torn backwater. Absurd claims, but the terrorists are producing artifacts that purport to be from this “real world”, and AHS soon becomes aware that both the famed right-wing senator Osama bin Laden and the notorious gangster Saddam Hussein are also very interested in this “mirage”…

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The Bonapartes: Where Are They Now? (Part Two)

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He’s Back!

Hey, does anyone remember that bright young Bonaparte kid? Showed up out of nowhere, shot across Europe like a shooting star, had a great career ahead of him, and then BAM! Vanished. Anybody know what he’s up to these days?

Well, he died of stomach cancer on a small South Atlantic island in 1821, and good riddance too, but his family is still around. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. Napoleon was a dominant presence in European politics for less than two decades, and during that time virtually every member of his family managed to marry someone important. And while the family lost it’s political importance after 1871, its members remain embedded throughout the world. They’re like kudzu. Turn over any leaf or rock in the world and you’re likely to find a member of the House of Bonaparte or one of it’s associated families. There have been Bonaparte politicians and generals and Kings and scientists and artists and revolutionaries, in virtually every country in Europe and quite a few beyond. In this article, I’d like to continue the truly mammoth task of tracing these lines. Going through Napoleon himself and each of his siblings and children, I’ll trace the lines of descent to the present day (to the best of my ability) and note people of interest. Please note this is a non-exhaustive list. Many people are not important enough for any information to be available about them, and many of the one’s who do are so boring that I couldn’t read their Wikipedia page for more than a minute before falling asleep. So think of this as a highlights tour.

Let’s continue.

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The Myth of Small Government

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This really may be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen

In American politics, one of the more tedious arguments that continues to pop up is the claim that the fascism is a left-wing ideology. Now, you may protest that Benito Mussolini specifically wrote that “Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ‘right’, a Fascist century.” in his Doctrine of Fascism and that virtually every fascist regime rose to power on the backs of dead socialists. But, the elite of the conservative intelligentsia would beg to differ, and who are we to argue with them?

Usually, I have dismissed these claims as the desperate whining of people too immature  to accept that their political philosophy might be less then perfect. But I came to a realization recently: I understand why someone might make that mistake. In the U.S, if you asked an ordinary person what the biggest political divide in our country was, they would almost certainly tell you it was between Democrats who want ‘Big Government’ and Republicans who want ‘Small Government’. The Left wants a large, powerful federal government that can intervene in people’s lives to make them better, while the Right believes that the government can only make things worse, and should leave people alone. This, I would say, is a fairly uncontroversial statement. It is also completely incorrect. Or rather, while it may be correct on narrow technical grounds, it fails to fully describe the actual philosophical differences between Right and Left. True, conservatives generally distrust the Federal government and wish to destroy it. But they do not hate it because it exercises power over humans, but rather because of the way it does so.

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The Bonapartes: Where Are They Now? (Part One)

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Napoleon Doesn’t Like Being Reminded He Lost

Hey, does anyone remember that bright young Bonaparte kid? Showed up out of nowhere, shot across Europe like a shooting star, had a great career ahead of him, and then BAM! Vanished. Anybody know what he’s up to these days?

Well, he died of stomach cancer on a small South Atlantic island in 1821, and good riddance too, but his family is still around. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. Napoleon was a dominant presence in European politics for less than two decades,  and during that time virtually every member of his family managed to marry someone important. And while the family lost it’s political importance after 1871, its members remain embedded throughout the world. They’re like kudzu. Turn over any leaf or rock in the world and you’re likely to find a member of the House of Bonaparte or one of it’s associated families. There have been Bonaparte politicians and generals and Kings and scientists and artists and revolutionaries, in virtually every country in Europe and quite a few beyond. In this article, I’d like to begin the truly mammoth task of tracing these lines. Going through Napoleon himself and each of his siblings and children, I’ll trace the lines of descent to the present day (to the best of my ability) and note people of interest. Please note this is a non-exhaustive list. Many people are not important enough for any information to be available about them, and many of the one’s who do are so boring that I couldn’t read their Wikipedia page for more than a minute before falling asleep. So think of this as a highlights tour.

Let’s begin.

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BOOK REVIEW: Sparrow Hill Road

 

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TITLE: Sparrow Hill Road

AUTHOR: Seanan McGuire

PUBLISHER: DAW Books

DATE: 2014

There are some books that I like more each time I reread them; others that I like less. There are some books that I enjoy rereading for years until one day I realize I have no interest in them left; there are others that I’ve been regularly revisiting since I was a child that still reliably bring me joy. Sparrow Hill Road may be the only book that I enjoy exponentially more each time I read. Last night before I went to bed I picked up the book and began reading the first chapter, intending to go to sleep in ten or fifteen minutes. Instead, I found myself so engrossed I stayed up all night reading, finishing the book as dawn broke. This has happened to me before, but never with a book that I’ve read multiple times. Almost despite myself, I find myself realizing that this may be one of my all-time favorite books. Why is that? This blog post will be an attempt to articulate just why I love it so much. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but fair warning, I guarantee nothing.

BACKGROUND:

Sparrow Hill Road is a book fairly light on actual plot, but I’ll attempt to summarize. In 1952, a sixteen year old girl named Rose Marshall died in a small town in Michigan, murdered by an immortal man named Bobby Cross. Since then, she has ridden the highways and byways of North America, hitchhiking from Alaska to Yucatan and from California to Carolina. She’s become an urban legend, the subject of stories and songs and tales. Some believe her to be a benevolent figure, a spirit that helps truck drivers and motorists avoid accidents and escape harm. Other stories tell of a frightful phantom that lures drivers to their deaths. Nobody knows the true story. Nobody knows that Bobby Cross still cruises the highways, searching for victims, and that Rose cannot rest until he is stopped.

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Reevaluating The Treaty Of Versailles

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Signing Of The Treaty Of Versailles

For a long time, one of the truisms of history as told in America was the story of St. Woodrow and the Treaty of Versailles. In this morality play, the kindly and naive President Wilson travels to Paris with his wonderful Fourteen Points in order to bring about a lasting peace. Alas, the devious and cruel Prime Minister Lloyd George and President Georges Clemenceau conspire to outwit poor Wilson and impose the extraordinarily unfair Treaty of Versailles upon Germany, dooming us to fight the Second World War two decades later. If only we’d made a lenient peace, like in 1945! It goes without saying, I think, that this version of events is a tad bit simple, and to be fair, historians have been questioning this narrative for decades. But it still remains the default story for most people, and I hate that.

I hate it because it gives far too much credit to Wilson, and because it dramatically misstates the actual dynamics of Versailles. I have already made the argument on this blog before that Woodrow Wilson is objectively terrible. But today I’d like to go more in depth into the Paris Peace Conference. Though undoubtedly a harsh peace, I would like to argue that the Treaty was much more lenient than is commonly realized, especially in the context of Great Power Wars. In fact, rather than being oppositional to the Fourteen Points, much of it was in accordance with them.

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