Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori

Senior Master Sergeant James Swartz (51), USAF, Staff Sergeant Joshua Schoenhoff (27), USAF, and Master Sergeant Daniel Pascal (27), USAF, all died during a typhoon in Okinawa on October 7, 2014.

Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Yeshable Villot-Carrasco (23), USN, died as a result of a non-hostile incident aboard the USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) while the ship was underway in the Red Sea on June 19, 2014.

First Lieutenant Adam Satterfield (25), USMC, and Captain Elizabeth Kelly (32), USMC, died on January 23, 2015, of injuries sustained after the UH-1Y helicopter they were flying crashed in the  Southern California desert.


Because not every military casualty happens in a war zone.

Eurovision 2015 – Part 4

The first round is just a week away. The performance order in semi-finals is set, the stage is built, rehearsals are underway… There’s only one question left to answer. Why does the United Kingdom keep sending such rubbish acts? To read the comments from the UK, it’s either that complaint or a snobbish comment that the entire competition is utterly beneath them.

The real question, of course, is who will win….

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The Name of the Movie is “STAR WARS”

Another May 4th has come and gone, and geeks everywhere display their true geekdom by referring to it as “Star Wars Day”. Seems that “May the fourth” is a lisping version of part of the famous (and overused to the point of tedium) quotation, “May the Force be with you.” The attempted joke was funny once… for a few seconds… but by now it’s just annoying. It’s as funny as the phrase “chicken butt”. Let it die in peace already.

Of course, Star Wars fans are all atwitter about the next movie in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, set to come out this December. With the previous movie (Revenge of the Sith) some ten years old, a lot of young new fans want to catch up on the series by watching all the previous movies.

I’m seeing a lot of stuff online about the correct order to watch them in. I strongly recommend watching them in the order in which they were made and released – Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.

Actually, you can probably ignore the three “prequels”. They have offensive characterizations, overuse of green screens and computer graphics, tedious scenes filled with talking, the reduction of The Force into some sort of scientific gobbledeygook…

Worse, you already know how the story is going to end. You know Anankin will join the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. You know which characters must survive. There’s no real tension in any of them.

And it could have been so much better….

By the way…. The name of the movie is Star Wars. Not “Star Wars: A New Hope”, Not “Star Wars: Episode IV”, just Star Wars. Thanks to the Internet, you can go back to 1977 and see the opening crawl from the movie’s original theatrical release:

Notice anything missing? That’s right! There’s no “Episode IV: A New Hope” nonsense! Nowhere in the movie, in any of the reviews, or in any of the advertising and promotional materials was it mentioned that this was going to be part of a series, and therefore needed a number / subtitle. It wasn’t until Lucas was working on The Empire Strikes Back that he thought of making the movies a series. The “Episode IV: A New Hope” bit first appeared in the opening crawl of the movie in its 1981 theatrical re-release. Which, actually, was a year AFTER “Empire” came out.

So there.

Visiting Las Vegas – Part 3

A few more things to see and do that I can recommend, having done them at some point during my visits to Las Vegas.

Of course, there are many, many fine restaurants in Las Vegas. It will be hard to go wrong with your choice. However, when you get right down to it, there really isn’t much difference between four-star steakhouses. Or sushi bars. So try and get to a place that’s really different; a place you cannot find anywhere else….

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Visiting Las Vegas – Part 2

So you’re in Las Vegas, and you’re wondering what to do during the daytime. Or at least in the afternoon, since you’re most likely sleeping it off until noon. You could go strolling through the upscale malls or wander through the casinos. But there are such malls in every large city, and frankly, one casino floor filled with slot machines looks like any other one. There are the usual group tours to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, plus ones to Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon, which are indeed worthwhile (wear hiking boots if you’re going to any of the “wilderness” areas).

As I mentioned last time, the thing to do is get the heck off The Strip and check out the more “off the beaten path” places.

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On The Reputation Economy

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Cory Doctorow

Thanks to many, many, unspecified technological advances, the world has become a Utopia. In “Bitchun Society”, death has been defeated – you upload your mind every night while you are asleep, and if you happen to die, your last upload is downloaded into a cloned body. You just lose a day. Scarcity and the problems of resource allocation have all been conquered. People join together in voluntary associations as needed to do what needs to be done.

Jules “works” at Disney World, where he and his friends and colleagues have taken it upon themselves to keep the theme park running. But his vision of what the Haunted Mansion should be clashes with his rival Debra, who has completely different ideas.

One day, Jules is “killed”. Restored from his backup, he finds that Debra has used his “downtime” to move in on his “territory”. Now Jules must fight to reclaim control of the Haunted Mansion, while figuring out who killed him – and why.

I suppose we should give authors a bit of a break on their first novels. Very few artists create masterpieces on their first time. So when the plot-motivating murder mystery gets pushed to the background, and a lot of the characters are rather flat, it’s understandable and forgiveable. This is primarily a story of social ideas, anyway.

But I find fatal flaws in one of his ideas….

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Baseball Season!

We’re finally underway. All the preparation, all the planning, and almost all the wheeling and dealing are done. It’s time to get out on the field and play ball!

This season looks to be a very good one. There’s a heck of a lot of parity (the sort that the NFL can only dream about), with no clear leader in five of the six divisions. It’s actually easier to list the teams that don’t have a chance at the playoffs than to run down all the teams that can honestly dream about playing in October. There’s also an immense number of good young players to watch and root for. It’s a great time to be a baseball fan.

Of course, it’s practically obligatory for even a semi-serious fan to offer their predictions for the coming season. Most of these come out before Opening Day. But since I’ve been a bit lazy (and one or two games don’t matter that much over the long haul), here’s my prognostications.

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Movie Review: Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985, Japan)

We’ve been conditioned by Disney and Pixar to think that animated movies are for children. Light in tone, with a standard comic relief sidekick for the protagonist. Simple messages about love and family and all that, plus an obligatory happy ending. But animation is just another means for telling a story, and that story need not be one suitable for children. Take a look at Fantastic Planet or Cool World or Fritz the Cat, for example. Most definitely NOT appropriate for children!

Even when the source material is ostensibly a children’s story, or the main characters are anthropomorphic animals, the resulting movie might not necessarily be something you’d want to watch with your kids.

Night on the Galactic Railroad is based on a classic of children’s literature (at least in Japan) by Kenji Miyazawa. If the movie is a reasonably faithful adaptation, it’s hard to imagine why. Not that it’s a classic, but that it was thought appropriate for children. Young adults, maybe… It’s positively loaded with theology, philosophy, and surrealistic imagery which I think would go way over their heads.

Anyway, on to the story.

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