Reparations

At the end of the Great War, the victorious allies wanted to really punish Germany for everything they had to endure in their victory. In addition to the loss of territory, the Treaty of Versailles contained a statement where Germany apologized and took all the blame for the war, and they were forced to pay some 132 billion gold marks (about $33 billion in 1919 dollars; over $500 billion today) in reparations. After a lot of refinancing (and another war sparked – in no small part – by the perceived humiliation of the reparations), the last payment was made in 2010.

In that next war, Finland wound up on the losing side due an alliance of convenience with Germany after Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union. Finland not only had to let the Soviets keep the territory they grabbed, but give them even more land and some serious cash payments. After the payments were made, a new bit of Finnish currency featured some nude figures (seen from the back) gazing at a sunset over an ocean. The joke was that it represented the Finns watching their last reparations payment going off to the Soviets.

Now there’s some serious talk – again – about reparations payments to African-Americans to atone in some fashion for slavery.

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Book Review: The Man Who Ended War

The Man Who Ended War
by Hollis Godfrey
1908
Feedbooks edition
https://www.feedbooks.com/book/6626/the-man-who-ended-war

At a press conference by the Secretary of War, someone asks about a strange letter that the government got earlier that day. The writer of that letter claims that the world has been too long in conflict, so he’s going to put a stop to it by destroying the navies of the world unless everyone agrees to disarm. They’ve got one year.

Everyone dismisses it as the work of a crank, but intrepid reporter Jim Orrington (our narrator and protagonist) isn’t so sure. He asks to see the original letter, and spots something a bit odd. He is able to persuade the government to allow him to bring the original (!!!) to Tom Haldane, a scientist friend of his, where they accidentally discover a part of the letter was erased and written over. That erased part gave a list of dates and times when battleships would be destroyed. It also happens that Tom noted some odd behavior of a piece of his lab equipment on occasions, and, musing on how one might destroy a battleship from a distance, they wonder if it could be connected.

When the USS Alaska disappears off the eastern coast of the US, at the same time that equipment exhibits its strange behavior again, Jim and Tom – and Tom’s sister Dorothy (a fair scientist in her own right) – manage to conjure up a device that acts as a locator for the source of whatever it is that vaporized the Alaska. Using Jim’s Washington connections, they get the OK from the president (!!!) to go ahead and track down “The Man” responsible.

As more battleships vanish, it’s a race against time to find “The Man” and put a stop to his doings.
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Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

It’s that time of year again – and this time even more hope is springing eternal in the human breast. A full 162 game season of major league baseball is approaching!

Fans will be allowed in the stands – at limited capacity to start, certainly. But there will be games, and there will be fans present.

The season looks to be a real barn-burner (admittedly, that can be said about every season – but so what). The Dodgers have a really good chance at repeating as World Series Champions – though the Padres are going to have something to say about that. While the Yankees stand a good chance of ending their pennant drought, the Twins are hoping to just win a playoff game. The Pirates are hoping that Ke’Bryan Hayes will be enough of a reason for people to care about them.

Speaking of rookies, there’s the usual crop of young studs that bring excitement to every game they’re in. Juan Soto. Fernando Tatis Jr. Randy Arozarena. Francisco Lindor. Shohei Ohtani. And the veterans that are always worth watching. Are the Angels good enough to get Mike Trout to the playoffs? Can Jacob de Grom win a third Cy Young Award? How good will Clayton Kershaw be now that he’s off the “can’t win in the playoffs” schneid? Will the tweaked ball have any effect on Aaron Judge’s power output? When will Miguel Cabrera hit career home run number 500?

I suppose I should make some predictions, er, best guesses.

The Dodgers and Padres will fight to the last day of the season, but Los Angeles will emerge as division winners. The Braves will come out ahead in a crazy scramble in the NL East. No one cares about the mediocre NL Central. The depth on the Dodgers’ roster will enable them to return to the WS again.

In the AL, the Yankees and Twins will be the teams to beat – and they will face each other for the pennant. The Twins will have already ended their streak of playoff futility, but they will still lose to their October nemesis.

Dodgers and Yankees in the World Series is as far as I want to go here.

Anyway, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to a game or three this year.

Play ball!

Movie Review: Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

When watching movies “of a certain age”, one has to keep in mind the old saw that “the past is a foreign country”. Social and cultural attitudes were quite different in the past, and those attitudes will be reflected on the silver screen. Not just the way people behaved in general (the casual smoking and drinking, for example), but the way people of other races were depicted.

The “Charlie Chan” movies were based on a character created by mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, who was inspired by newspaper accounts of Chinese-Hawaiian police detective Chang Apana. Chan would appear in six novels, and became so popular that Hollywood would make over three dozen “Charlie Chan” movies.

In this particular film, Chan has been sent to Egypt by a French archaeological society to find out why goods from an excavation they’re sponsoring have been winding up in the hands of private collectors. This quickly turns into a multiple murder investigation, but for our purposes, there’s another question to investigate:

How many ethnic stereotypes can you cram into one movie, without pushing it over the line into blatant offensiveness?

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Fixing the Olympics – II

Less than one year from now, Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, there’s much talk about boycotting them over China’s miserable human rights record.

There’s been the usual suggestion of a boycott, but we all know that doesn’t work. It only harms the athletes who don’t get to participate, and the host country gets to control the narrative as well as get bragging rights from winning all the medals.

Mitt Romney, who organized the Salt Lake City Olympics, so he has some experience in these things, suggest we should participate – but counter all the Chinese propaganda by telling and showing the truth about what they are doing in Hong Kong and with the Uighurs.

But that isn’t a permanent solution to the problem. The scale of hosting the Games means that more than likely, a totalitarian state that can ignore the cost will wind up as a host. Some suggest moving the Olympics to a permanent site, but that just places the costs onto a single country – and the same country every time.

There might be a better solution.

Spread the Games out.
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Cancelling Characters

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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Happy Videos

Because we can always use something to make us feel good….

Matt Harding was a video game designer who decided he needed a break from making games were the goal was to kill things. So he traveled the world, and put together a clip reel of him doing a goofy little jig in interesting places. It went modestly viral, and was seen by someone at Stride Gum. They approached him with a marketing idea: “How about a second trip? We’ll deal with the logistics and permissions, you just be there and do that dance, and stick our logo in your video.” He agreed (hey, more travel to interesting places!), and that video went even MORE viral. Fans commented that they would have LOVED to dance with him if only they had known about it. So Harding asked the people at Stride if they’d be interested in sponsoring another trip – this time with other people dancing, and a blog where people could follow the journey. Stride said, “OK, sure!”

A few more videos followed. FIFA helped him make one for the World Cup in South Africa. He returned to game design, editing, and writing. Presumably, he and his family are doing fine.

It helps if you know how long Cubs fans have been waiting for this, but you don’t really have to know much about baseball to feel the sheer joy on display here. This has got to be the Best Reaction Video Ever. I double-dog-dare you to find a better one.

By the way, if there are any other videos (no cute animal ones, please; those are too easy) that you’d like to share, give the link in the comments – and I just might add it!

 

Overrated-Underrated: Medieval Battle

Warfare in Medieval Europe is a bit of an odd duck. Wars, such as they were, were rarely about acquiring territory or expanding the national geopolitical reach. Instead, they were more about personal or family politics, and ransoming prisoners. On the tactical level, things were barely and rarely more than massed frontal assaults. Most “armies” were around the size of a modern brigade, and forget about grand campaigns. It was more about who could get the most trained troops to the battlefield first. And there was rarely anything epic or glorious in the fighting.

But a few battles from that era still stand out – so of course some are overrated, and some are underrated.

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Between the Dynasties

I was musing recently on World Series of years gone by. In the 1950s, it was all Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, with a few interruptions from the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians. Then the Milwaukee Braves, with Henry Aaron, Eddie Matthews, and Warren Spahn came in for two years while the Dodgers and Giants were moving to California.

Then suddenly it’s the 1960s, and you’ve got the Mickey Mantle Yankees in their twilight, and the Bob Gibson Cardinals and Sandy Koufax Dodgers (with the Willie Mays & Willie McCovey Giants in a brief supporting role).

But there’s an interesting gap of three years in there – where three teams that almost always get left out of the discussion managed to win pennants while playing exciting baseball.
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IOKIYAR

I don’t know how you’d pronounce it – perhaps “Eye-OWE-kay-arr” – but it’s an acronym for “It’s OK, If You’re A Republican”, and it seems to be the guiding ethical principle for today’s GOP. Any perceived offense or violation of ethics by a Democrat calls for immediate condemnation – at a minimum. But a similar or even greater offense by a Republican is of no consequence as long as the alleged offender is in good standing with the party.

A Democrat is found to have made a tasteless joke years before he entered politics? Sorry; he’ll have to resign. A Republican has many credible accusations of sexual assault in his history? Nothing to see here; he won’t do it again. The Democrat president’s son has just released a book? Even though the publisher bought the manuscript before Dad became president, that’s still nepotism! We must investigate! The Republican president puts several family members in high level positions, bypassing normal background security checks, and his son publishes a book? Meh, no big deal.

The best instance of this hypocrisy can be seen by comparing the responses to a pair of deadly attacks on government facilities.

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