Nelson’s Last Ride: The Battle Of Tsushima


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”.

Continue reading


Anxiety In Kiki’s Delivery Service


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.

Continue reading

Bring Back Anti-Clericalism!



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.

Continue reading