Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Is The Best



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in a theater. It’s been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it when I was ten, but seeing it on the big screen really blew me away. It’s such a stunning, powerful movie, and it reminded me of why I love it so much. That’s what I want to talk about to y’all today. Nausicaä was one of Miyazaki’s first movies, and in some ways you can tell. It’s clunkier than some of his later movies, the music is sometimes very dated, there’s the occasional plot hole, the animation is simpler. But it all works so well, both stylistically and thematically.

So, I mentioned that I saw and loved this movie when I was a kid and I did. But I will confess that about 70% of my initial enthusiasm boiled down to “AIRSHIPS!”. I liked airships a lot when I was young. Still do for that matter. And the airships in this movie are just so amazingly designed. They have this ramshackle look, like they’ve been bolted together from scrap metal, and it works so well for the post-apocalyptic setting. Really, all the designs are great. The Tolmekian army is this bizarre mix of tanks and knights and soldiers armed with guns that look they’ve been taped together that doesn’t really make any sense but, once again, reinforces this view of a world running off the scraps of industrialized civilization. The giant warriors have this amazingly minimalist, stripped down look that emphasizes their terror, and I’ve always liked that even the castle in the Valley of the Wind has windmills built into it. It’s such a good visual signifier of how everything and everyone in this kingdom is devoted to the precarious maintenance of human life. We don’t really see much of the word of Nausicaä, and yet you feel like you know it so well by the end of the movie.

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The Subject Of Discussion


TITLE: The Chosen

AUTHORS: David Drake, S.M Stirling

SERIES: Raj Whitehall Series


DATE: 1996

The Chosen is a book that I like much, much more than it probably deserves. Objectively speaking,  it’s a perfectly-decent science fiction book, with all the strengths and flaws of both authors present. But personally? I love this book. I have found myself returning to it time and time again. I’ve owned it for less than a year and I’ve probably reread it at least three times by now. This blog post is an attempt by me to work exactly what it is that makes this book such a good fit for me. Fair warning, I’m calling it a ‘Book Review’  because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want but this is going to be a deeply self-indulgent article. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, come back next month. We’ll have something about Napoleon up. Probably.



The actual plot of The Chosen is simple. On the planet Visager, two brothers with preternatural abilities must help rally the Free World to fight against the Chosen, a nation of basically just-straight up Nazis. The context for this, however, is…….complicated. The Chosen sits at the intersection of two very weird series. First is the Raj Whitehall Series (also known as the General Series), also by S.M Stirling and David Drake. The plot of the General Series is that on the planet Bellevue, long after the collapse of the Generic Space Federation, civilization is slowly collapsing.

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The American Légitimistes


American Democracy

What Ever Happened To Bipartisanship?

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that there’s a shameful lack of cooperation in Washington right now. Sure, Democrats and Republicans have some disagreements, but there’s no reason they can’t come together to work for the betterment of the country, right? Since Mitch ‘I Broke America’ McConnell first decided on a policy of total and absolute obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in 2009, the “gridlock in Washington!” has become almost a cliche, taken for granted by everyone, a subject of jokes and gentle admonishments. “Hyper-partisanship” is talked about as if it in itself is the problem, with stubborn politicians refusing to cross the aisle out of nothing but irrational prejudice. Anyways, as well all know, politicians are really all the same, amirite?

A few months so ago, during the height of the Obamacare repeal debate, Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo excellently illustrated the failure of this trope when it came to health care policy, noting that “Pretending that both parties just have very different approaches to solving a commonly agreed upon problem is really just a lie. It’s not true. One side is looking for ways to increase the number of people who have real health insurance and thus reasonable access to health care and the other is trying to get the government out of the health care provision business with the inevitable result that the opposite will be the case. If you’re not clear on this fundamentally point, the whole thing does get really confusing.” Consistently, the media presented the debate over health care as two groups refusing to cooperate out of partisanship. This is true, in the narrowest sense, but the reason there was such high partisanship was because the two parties fundamentally disagreed on how health care should work. And this isn’t just true on healthcare, but on virtually every issue of discussion.

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How I Would Fix America


Move Over Washington! It’s my turn!

You know, I talk a good game about how “the American experiment in federal democracy is collapsing under it’s own weight” and “we live in the beginning of the collapse of the American Empire”, but maybe it’s time for me to walk the walk. What do I know anyway? If I’m so smart, why don’t I fix it, huh? Well, I can’t Make America Even A Little Bit Functional Again, but I can talk about how I would do it. I’m going to run through what I see as the major flaws in the current American governmental structure and lay out two plans to correct them, one a minimalist reform and one a maximalist. Please note that I’ll be discussing only constitutional and governmental structures, not the policies I would wish the government to implement once established. Now, let’s begin.

America is a country screwed up in many, many ways, but I believe most of our current governmental dysfunction can be traced to Federalism Run Amuck. Everyone knows the story of our Glorious Founding Fathers and how they compromised between states rights and federal power to protect the sovereignty of the smaller states, yadda, yadda, yadda, etc, etc. All well and good. But what made sense once as the compact between a group of semi-independent states has become increasingly untenable as state population disparities grow larger and larger due to the growth of urbanization. For example: “By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators.” (Source). Rural states are also especially privileged by the Electoral College and the artificially-restricted number of Representatives.

This dynamic of disenfranchised cities plays out internally as well, with states like North Carolina and Texas designing their legislative and congressional maps specifically the break the power of the urban majorities, rendering them impotent.

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Napoleon Bonaparte Is History’s Only True Supervillain


Napoleon Escapes Justice On His Super-Horse Of Evil

Napoleon Bonaparte is history’s only true supervillian. This may seem like a controversial statement, but it is one that I can prove with enumerable facts, a number of which I shall enumerate below. Before I present my proof, however, I would like to clarify something: I am not attempting to argue that Napoleon is the most evil man in history. There are at least half a dozen people who committed more evil acts, killed more people, burned more cities, etc, etc than Emperor Napoleon I. This, however, has no bearing on my claim. My argument is that, alone out of history’s great villains and vagrants, Bonaparte possesses a certain set of attributes that set him apart. Rather than a monster or a demon, he is clearly a supervillain.

Napoleon Bonaparte Makes No Sense (Historically Speaking)

Generally speaking, even the most evil of acts can be aligned properly with their historical context. This does not excuse them, but it does serve to explain them. Take Hitler for example. The antisemitism of the National Socialists is derivative of the philosophy pioneered by the Viennese mayor Karl Lueger  and his Christian Socialist Party, and in a broader sense, a tradition of German political antisemitism going back to Martin Luther. Hitler’s short-term aims were the reversal of the Treaty of Versailles and the restoration of German Great Power status. His long-term aims in the East were part of a tradition of German longing for an Eastern Empire that can be traced back the Imperial German policy in the Great War and even further, to the Northern Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries and the Teutonic Knights colonization of what would become Prussia and the Baltic States.

None of this holds true for Napoleon. Napoleon Bonaparte came from a minor Corsican noble family, one who had been committed to the cause of Corsican independence. As a young man, Bonaparte was a fierce adherent of this cause. He abandoned this in favor of Radical French Republicanism, then dropped that in favor of dreams of Oriental Sultandom, then returned to Earth and became a vaguely classical Military Dictator, and then finally settled on Absolute Divine-Sanctioned Monarchy. All of this would make sense if Napoleon was rapidly acceding to the whims of popular opinion, but this sensible hypothesis is disproved by the facts. When Napoleon was bouncing around Egypt dreaming of converting to Islam and forging an Oriental Empire, this was not a plan supported by either his army, the people of France, the people of Egypt, or any recognized intellectual or political faction. And as for his decision to convert Republican France to a monarchy predicated on an absolutism that most actual kings didn’t believe in! Words escape me.

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Abraham Lincoln Was Not A Third Party President


Honest Abe Is Deeply Disappointed In You




I can actually understand where this idea comes from. Our current political system did not fully arise until after the Civil War, and was not fully ossified until after the Second World War, and politics in the 19th century could be much more fluid than today. Still, the sometimes-expressed idea that it was a paradise for Third Parties and Alternative Parties is extremely anachronistic, and comes from historically-illiterate people projecting today’s politics backwards.

Let’s take this from the top, shall we?

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Wonder Woman And The Mythology Of The First World War


So I have semi-organized thoughts on Wonder Woman. Unsurprisingly, most of them have to do with it’s treatment of World War One.

1. I LOVED IT SO MUCH! I haven’t seen any of the other DCCU movies so I can’t compare it to them but I thought it was really fun, and really well put together. The final battle dragged on a little too long for my taste but that’s the only real criticism I have in terms of movie construction.

2. So, I legit saw this movie so I could judge its historical accuracy. My judgment: better than expected! Besides obvious historical deviations, there were only two things that really bugged me. First, how did a German destroyer arrive to attack Paradise Island (which I presume is located somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean) when all German naval units in the Med had been blockaded in Istanbul since 1914? Second, while the scene where Wonder Woman charges across No-Man’s Land and breaks the stalemate is really cool, it………could not have happened. The movie takes place in November of 1918. The stereotypical conditions of the Western Front had not existed since August, when the Allies broke the German lines and began the Hundred Days Offensive. By November, the German military was in complete collapse and full retreat. I was going to write about how silly it was that you see some British Mark I tanks on that German army base at the end but then I remembered that the German army actually captured a number of them and returned them to service in Imperial colors, so the movie’s got me beat there. Also, props for depicting the Imperial German Naval Ensign correctly! Oh, and I think Field Marshal Sir Douglas ‘Butcher’ Haig makes a cameo? Good for him .

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Visualizing The Great War

On March 21st, 1918, at 7:15 AM, a charge ignited deep within a monstrosity of steel and concrete buried into the hills of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique. A 234 lb. shell launched, shredding the lining of the barrel as it punched into the atmosphere. Above the French countryside it rose, higher and higher, five miles, ten, fifteen, twenty-five. Then it fell, stooped like a hawk. At 7:18 AM, the shell slammed into the Quai de la Seine, a full 80 miles away from where it had begun. This was the Paris Gun, and the first man-made object to penetrate the stratosphere.

War had reached new new heights.

The way the history of WWI is taught really bugs me, because it’s nearly always so limited. Nearly everyone only learns about trench warfare on the Western Front, submarine raiding in the Atlantic, maybe the Russian Revolution. The Great War was fought at greater heights than any before, as well as greater depths. Geographically, fighting occurred near or on every continent. Culturally, the armies of the First World War were more heterogeneous than any war fought before the creation of trans-national empires could. On the Western Front alone, the Allied Powers fielded soldiers and laborers from France, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia, Portugal, Senegal, Algeria, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia, the United States, Siam, Indochina, India, and China.

To attempt to help rectify this, I decided to try to create a visualization of the war, a map showing just how widespread and all-encompassing this conflict was. And to make this post slightly less self-indulgent, I included a selection of historical maps relating to the war I think help illustrate my point.

Click ‘View Image’ to Embiggen

Same As Above

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Feminist Folk Music: Does It Exist?



One of the more tedious forms of mass-produced think-pieces in our internet era is “Is [surprising and unexpected piece of pop cultural ephemera] actually a feminist masterpiece?” At the risk of falling into this I’d like to pose the following question: Is folk music feminist? Well, the answer is no because folk music is a massive category of musical styles and forms stretching back hundreds of years so it’s far too broad a category to draw conclusions about. But let’s restate the question. Is folk music more feminist than people give it credit for? And I’d say yes, yes it is. The usual disclaimers here apply, I am an asexual man, take my opinions about feminist issues and sexual politics with a grain of salt, etc, etc but I really do think that within the vast corpus of folk music exists a number of surprisingly feminist themes.

This may seems surprising, given that folk music is the music of old white people. But folk music is also an extremely populist genre. Though the term is now used to refer to an entire style of music, technically it refers to music of traditional or unknown authorship, music passed from generation to generation orally, music written by communities about their daily lives. This is why I’ve always loved traditional music, because it has the capacity to cut to the core of people’s hopes and dreams in a way nothing else does. Women are people. Women are actually a lot of people! And women wrote and sung and passed down songs as much as men ever did. That’s not to say that all folks songs about women have progressive messages. The number of songs cheerfully recounting men murdering their girlfriends/wives/random women/etc is sort of astounding, just for example. But you also have folk songs forthrightly laying out condemnations of the institution of marriage, folk songs acknowledging women’s sexual agency, and folk songs about defiance, about spitting in the eye of those who would attempt to control you.

That’s what I want to talk about today.

(Trigger Warning: Violence against women, sexual assault, rape)

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“There is no Tsar! There is no God!”


A Painting Of Bloody Sunday

January 22nd, 1905.

This is the day the Russian Empire fell.

Oh, the corpse shambled on for another twelve years, but it’s soul was dead, gunned down by soldiers outside the Narva Gate and on the Nevsky Prospect.

Let’s start at the beginning.

1904 had not been a good year for Russia, for reasons that were not new. The rapid pace of industrialization had created a peasant proletariat in the cities, beaten down by the managers and owners and seething with resentment. The bourgeois middle class that should have supported the state against the poor resented the Imperial Government’s autocratic grip on power. Strikes and labor stoppages became more and more common in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as did support for socialists, anarchists, and other subversive groups. Meanwhile, the children of the privileged increasingly turned to revolutionary terrorism, and the number of nobles and generals shot down or blown up increased exponentially. Finally, the spark: war with Japan had begun in the Far East and it was not going well. The Russo-Japanese War was supposed to be, in the words of Interior Minister Plehve “a short, victorious war” that would restore the people’s confidence in the Tsar and his government. Instead, Japan had delivered a series of humiliating defeats to the Russian armies and was even now driving deep into Manchuria. Casualties were reported to have been in the hundreds of thousands. Plehve did not appreciate the depth of his failure, as a Jewish terrorist had thrown a bomb into his carriage last July.

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