If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid looking in a mirror, because I bet that will really throw you into a panic.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
This photo is titled "German tanks cross the Don". I'm not sure, the Don is wider than this river. That said, its not far off. This appears to be SW Russia near the Don bend in the summer of 1942. At that point, it looked like the German gamble to attack in the South was paying off. The idea was to smash the Red Army in the South and take the Russian oil fields in the Caucasus. Hitler had insisted on an offensive aimed at the oil supply, both because Germany was desperate for oil, and to deny it to the Russians.
By mid-August, the Wehrmacht was advancing up to 20 miles per day with the Red Army in disarray. The overall commander of the operation, von Manstein, sensed an opportunity to deal a knock-out blow to the Red Army. When the Russian defense stiffened on the West bank of the Volga, von Manstein saw his chance. He set the German 6th Army to finish the job by taking an industrial city on the Volga called Stalingrad.
Like Lee at Gettysburg, von Manstein had lost respect for his opponents and thought they would collapse if he could just hit them hard enough.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Good news today. The British government has given up pushing Tony Blair for the EU Presidency due to "overwhelming opposition", according to the NYT. Tony will have to go back to imposing peace on the Palestinians. To be fair, there hasn't been a war in Gaza in almost a year. Way to go Tony.
Remember that until Google fixed it, you used to be able to search for "liar" and if you hit the feeling lucky button, you would go to Blair's Wikipedia entry.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Comrade Stalin, Kremlin, late 1930's
A wiser, kinder, truer, more capable or dedicated public servant has never graced the earth. He had no tolerance for anyone who thought otherwise.
I struggled for a long time to understand the purges. They seemed so deliberately wasteful, employing huge resources to deal with people who represented no real threat to Stalin's power. The answer, I think, was paranoia and ambition.
The first thing is Stalin's paranoia. He started by bumping off his chief rival, Sergei Kirov in 1934. Then he went after the rest of his rivals in the high halls of the party by framing them for Kirov's murder and increasingly wild accusations of conspiracy to overthrow the revolution. Then he had people methodically go through the institutions of the state for their sympathizers and allies. So far so good for a ruthless, paranoid dictator. But it should have stopped there. Instead, there were waves of purges that rippled outward through the entire society. They went on and on for years. In the end, Stalin removed not only his opponents, but anyone who might have the motivation or means to become an opponent sometime in the future. This is why the families of purge victims were often shipped to labor camps in Siberia. Conservative estimates put the minimum number executed at about 1 million. Another 1.5 - 2 million died in the Siberian camps.
The second reason was ambition. He wanted to entirely remake greater Russia in his image. At one point in the late 1930's, he called together all the storytellers and folk singers in the Soviet Union for a grand convention. Then he had them all shot. There would be no memory, no history, no identity not dictated by Stalin.
Eventually, the purges carried off the majority of senior soldiers, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, academics, intellectuals and scientists. The purges burned out in 1938 after there was nobody left in the Party, the state institutions or the military who could be suspected. Stalin was triumphant. The survivors were sycophants, or apparatchiks. The disastrous impact of these purges on the Soviet Union's capabilities became stark in the weeks following June 22, 1941.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Shigeru Miyamoto is 57. The old boss at Nintendo decided to take a chance on a skinny art student and let him have a go at video game design. It worked out well for everyone. Here is a partial list of Miyamoto's games:
Donkey Kong 1981
Mario Bros. 1983
The Legend of Zelda 1986
Super Mario World 1991
Super Mario Kart 1992
Star Fox 1993
Yoshi's Safari 1993
Donkey Kong 1994
Pokémon Red and Blue 1996
Super Mario 64 1997
Paper Mario 2001
Metroid Prime 2002
Wii Sports 2006
Super Mario Galaxy 2006
Wii Fit 2007
Wii Music 2008
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Let us learn our lessons. … Never believe any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events… incompetent or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprise, awful miscalculations.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I was very doubtful about the rumors we heard in the evening of November 9, 1989 that the Berlin wall had fallen. There was no Internet, of course, so we had to wait for the CBC news to find out for sure. The photo above shows what we saw when we turned on the TV.
For many seconds, we sat dumbstruck. What we were seeing did not compute. 24 hours earlier, a crowd like that on top of the wall would have been cleared with machine guns. More video came in showing the same scene in other parts of the city. One showed a guy riding a bicycle on the top of the wall. Unthinkable. But the world had just changed. We celebrated most of the night. Not because we had won the Cold War, but because it seemed to be over without nuclear incineration.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I think this is a great photograph. Its like epic combat from a classical myth. The empty stands make them appear to be playing for the Gods, not for humans.
its interesting that this otherwise baffling photo can be explained to anyone who knows baseball with two words "Cobb triple".