October 23, 2007

IRA vs. Islamicists

I'm not a Nobel prize winning author, and I never will be one, but then I have a certain grasp of facts. So for instance, when a nobel laureate says that the 9/11 attack wasn't as bad as the IRA's multi-decade terror campaign, I have to point out this is an apple, that is an orange. One is a single attack carried out by a terror ogranization, the other is a totality of terror campaign. Why not compare the number killed by al-Qaida world-wide to those killed in a single IRA attack?

A better comparison would be the IRA's multi-decade terror campaign, and al-Qaida's roughly decade long terror campaign. And then you should also compare what the aims of the two groups are, and then I think it becomes pretty clear that in a real comparison, the IRA is/were pikers compared to al-Qaida, and if you throw in the Islamicist movement compared to the IRA, there is simply no comparison in terms of numbers killed, tortured, lives disrupted or ruined, international scope, or total opposition to everything Doris Lessing holds dear as a member of Western society. None.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:47 PM | Current Events | War On Terror

General Sanchez and Editing

I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I haven't written one in a while, but their treatment of Lt. General Sanchez's remarks the other day caused a big enough gasket blowout to generate a letter. It wasn't one of my best, and I knew it was a little long for their taste, but I couldn't see a way to get from the 350 words I wrote to the 250 max they like without damaging my arguement. And frankly, the word limit just one more constraint newpapers operate under that doesn't exist on the internet.

First, the letter as printed:

Lt. Gen. Sanchez's message

"Ex-Iraq commander blasts Bush policies" (Oct. 13), about Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez's address, was appalling. It did not include his criticism of the media: "The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas.... You are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war."

Yes, Mr. Sanchez blasted the Bush administration, but he also blasted other government agencies and Congress. He said: "The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable." His focus was on getting the nation focused. All readers were provided was another military officer who "harshly criticized the administration's conduct of the war." There was no hint of his equally harsh criticism of the press, Congress and political partisanship.

His message was clear: The military has been shouldering the whole load of the war on terror, but it cannot win the war all by itself, and partisan politics has kept the nation from bringing the full range of its power to bear on the war.

He said, "Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have hindered this war effort.... America must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan politics and places the common good about all else...."

The letter as written, with the edits (mostly deletions) in red:

General Sanchez's Real Message

Your article of 10/13 on Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's address to the Military Reporters & Editors Association was appalling. Your mis-reporting is exactly what the general spent almost half his address discussing. Somehow you didn't see fit to include this direct quote about the press: "The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our servicemembers who are at war." Clearly, you are among those General Sanchez called out by saying "the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases, and agendas."

Yes, Sanchez blasted the Bush administration, but he also blasted other government agencies and Congress. "The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable." His focus was on getting the whole nation focused. Somehow all that went unreported and all that your readers were provided was a another military officer who "harshly criticized the administration's conduct of the war." Not a hint of his equally harsh criticism of the press, Congress, and political partisanship in general.

His message was pretty clear - the military has been shouldering the whole load of the war on terror but it simply cannot win the war all by itself, and partisan politics has kept the nation from bringing the full range of its power to bear on the war. Or in his own words, "Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have hindered this war effort and America should not accept this. America must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan politics and places the common good about all else. All too often our politicians have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of their lust for power."

So as always, I ponder over the edits. Some were good, such as removing my weasel word "pretty". Some are just annoying, like the change of "Not a hint of his..." change to "There was no hint of his..." which is what you'd expect of an english major who doesn't see a verb and who has been taught to abhor sentance fragments. Some were clearly for length, such as "And America should not accept this." Re-reading the letter I wish I had swaped the ending around to end with my own words instead of the General's, but I can't expect them to clean up my act to that extent. But some make me see red - such as removing the last line about putting political party above loyalty to the constitution, or my linking at the start what the General was complaining about and how they reported his speech. I really think they were trying to soften General Sanchez's criticism of the press, and of the Democrats.

That's why I have a blog, that's why I use the internet and primary sources as much as possible for my news, and that's why newspapers have lost the trust of the majority of their readers.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:11 PM | Media Criticism

The Joys Of A Democrat In The White House

In some ways I look forward to a President from the Democratic party. Overnight, the Democrats will be for the war on terror. I know that right now the right is calling the Democrats the Surrendercrats and otherwise calling out the lack of a Democratic backbone, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that with a Democrat in the White House the Democratic party doesn't just rattle sabers, it slashes away with great gusto. Bill Clinton had no trouble attacking other countries, and the Democrats didn't say boo. Our attack on Serbia over Kosovo was pre-emptive, our airforce bombed Serbian state television -- killing civilians and members of the press -- because we didn't like what they were broadcasting.

And lest we forget, it was the Clinton administration that invented "extraordinary rendition. It was Peace Prize winner Al Gore who defended the procedure in interal deliberations thusly: ""That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."

Since the mainstream media isn't just made up of Democrats, but has become a chief supporter of Democrats, the tone of stories will change overnight. Our successes in Iraq will at last be reported; the economy will improve overnight (except for those areas that the Democrats want to change, so healthcare will still be in crisis, and the deficit will be mentioned only in the context of the need to raise taxes). And with the press not feeling the need to smear Bush any way they can, the tone of overall reportage in general will improve, while the stores about how bad the US is will dramatically decline, so much so that our stature in the world will improve (which naturally will be described as result of the policies of our wise and beloved Democratic President). Yes, the stories the US press pushes are picked up internationally; the idea that somehow our press stops at the waters edge and has no influence on how the rest of the world sees us is laughably naive. It's human nature to assume that a country's own press is more accurate than any foreign reportage.

You might think I'm cynical - but I don't. I think I'm quite scientific, since I've seen this happen before.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:39 AM | Media Criticism | National Politics

October 19, 2007

A Tragedy In Pakistan

I'm not a world leader, but let me express my shock, horror, and dismay at yesterday's suicide bombing in Pakistan and extend my condolences to the families of those killed and to all of Pakistan.

Street in Karachi, Pakistan

I have fond memories of the time I spent there, and the wonderful people I met there. What a terrible tragedy, and a reminder that the virtues and evils of man are universal.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:21 PM | Current Events

Arab American Actors

When my local paper ran this article about Arab-American actors typcast as terrorists, they put the headline "Do these men look like terrorists" over the pictures of three American actors of middle eastern descent. So I thought to myself, they don't look like IRA terrorists, or ETA terrorists, or LTTE terrorists, or FARC terrorists, but oddly enough, they do look like Arab terrorists (Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas spring to mind). Really, what does a terrorist look like?

I suppose fewer movies should be made about current events? Or should TV and movies employ blue-eyed blondes to protray arabs?

Left unsaid is that the complaint used to be that blacks were always pimps and hustlers, asians were martial artists or brainiacs, italians always mobsters, etc.

As far as I can tell, the claim is that Hollywood, that liberal bastion, is stereotyping Arab-Americans. Must be the Jews fault.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:41 AM | Media Criticism

October 18, 2007

Government Popularity Continues Slide

Here's a headline you're not likely to see: Bush twice as popular as Congress. Not that that's saying much, although more people think Bush is doing a good job than people think the average newspaper is accurate, which again isn't saying much.

Now I think it's normal for most President's approval to trend downward with time because the art of governing in America is the art of comprimise while most Americans want victory on the issues that are important to them. At the start of a Presidency, the only thing people hold against him are promises not made. Over time, a President is bound to not deliver victory on more and more issues important to particular Americans. It's harder on a President who lost party majorities in Congress and therefore can deliver on very little - although he can still keep his opponents from delivering victories for their supporters.

Since President Bush serves in interesting times, everything is magnified. While the war is clearly a big driver, the President's failure to deliver on Social Security reform and his difference with his base on immigration reform are another two big hits to his approval. A mainstream media that continues to bend the truth to "get Bush" at all times is no help to his approval ratings either.

I think the real question is why is the approval rating of Congress so low, and what does it mean for America?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:39 PM | National Politics

Lights, Engineering, Depression

While I find a brisk walk on a cool but sunshiny day to be a wonderful mental tonic, I don't know that there's measurable benefit to people who are actually depressed. Dr. Ilardi thinks there is, though.

Hmm, how does this play with the ranking of the least depressing fields: Engineers, Architects, and Surveyors? Maybe including the surveyors who spend most of their time outdoors I imagine, as opposed to we engineers who spend most of our times in human sized mazes under florescent light, is the secret to the lack of depression in those fields. Farming, Fishing, and Forestry isn't far behind, so maybe there is something to this after all.

No matter, I work in a profession that is fun and productive. Maybe that's why my fellow engineers are in such good mental health, whether we are like cavemen or not.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:01 PM | Culture

October 17, 2007

Ellen DeGeneres Goes To The Dogs

I don't watch Ellen DeGeneris so I missed her emotional meltdown the other day:

For those who missed out on her shaggy-dog edition of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," here're the condensed version: DeGeneres and her partner adopted Iggy, an adorable Brussels Griffon mix, on Sept. 20. But Iggy didn't get along the couple's cats, so after giving it the ol' celebrity try (about 10 days?), they decided to give him to DeGeneres's hairdresser and her two daughters. Unfortunately, DeGeneres forgot to tell the pet adoption agency, which requires notification for any change of ownership, and when the agency learned of this transfer, it told DeGeneres she had violated their contract and repossessed the dog.

While unpleasant, this kind of story is hardly unusual. What moves it into the realm of OFF/beat is that DeGeneres spent long, painful chunks of airtime dwelling on her clerical error. "I feel totally responsible for it and I'm so sorry. I'm begging them to give that dog back to that family," she bawled in a near-fetal (albeit seated) position. "It's not their fault. It's my fault. I shouldn't have given the dog away."

As a dog lover, I can relate to how tough it must have been. What I cannot understand, though, is why DeGeneres would bawl her eyes out on national television. And then it hit me like a Great Dane to the chest: damage control.

With her emotional and peremptory elocution, Ellen avoided being mauled by the tabloids and, more important, avoided disappointing her adoring fans. Rather than deny and explain, she confessed and begged forgiveness. And by crying those tears, whether alligator or not, she most likely won over even more fans. Think I'm being too cynical? Watch the video and decide for yourself.

I didn't watch the video. I did read the comments, and boy were they interesting as they showed a couple of things - the spirit of Bob Ford is alive and well, and a lot people love to complain about how other people get things done.

I've adopted a dog from a rescue organization and yes they were extremely thorough -- the application was several pages long, the references were actually checked, we had a home visit. We felt it was excessive, but then we aren't out rescuing dogs. It was made abundantly clear to us that if we were no longer able to keep Trooper, he went back to the agency and no one else. That's the agreement you make to get the dog. Don't like it, get a dog from somewhere else.

But back to Ellen D's meltdown - is it real, or is it for show? I don't know - how would I? On the one hand, it's mighty convient as well as excessive, but on the other, most celebrities seem to have emotional issues that cause them to want the attention of celebrityhood.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:58 AM | Current Events | TV

October 16, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford

I dragged the funWife off to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford last friday night based on the recommendation of this review at Libertas. I was entranced by the film, the funWife compared it to The Horse Whisperer - the longest, most pointless, boringest movie ever made, let alone conceived. So there you have it - two people, one movie, diametrically opposed viewpoints.

The movie is long, almost 3 hours, but I was mesmerized the entire time. The train robbery scene is simply the most visually stunning art I can recall seeing in a movie theater. Compelling characters, stunning visuals, a laconic pace that allows characters to not just flower but bear fruit as well - what's not to like? I have to wonder, though, if part of the attraction of this movie is that there are so few like it made anymore.

I wish Hollywood made more movies like this - big, sprawling, character driven. This movie is Brad Pitt's best work (yes, I know that's not saying much) but sorry girls not only does he keep his clothes on, he's usually wearing a large hairy coat. Casey Affleck is amazing, the rest of the cast outstanding, the Missouri countryside never more beautiful (too bad it wasn't shot on location).

The only sour note was the casting of James Carville as the governor of Missouri. His appearance brought a laugh from the Missouri audience, and his line "my wife has told me I've talked long enough" (I bet she, i.e. Mary Matalan, has) and it was jarring in a movie that was otherwise so immersive in the time period.

I was surprised the film could generate as much tension as it did when you know what is going to happen, although the chunk of the movie after the "assassination" was a revelation. What a sad testament to the state of Hollywood today that a movie like this is relegated to art houses. Hollywood just doesn't know what to do with a grown up movie. Trust your audience, and we'll both be rewarded.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | Movies

October 15, 2007

Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

As I'm sure you already know, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. This is greated as big news in some quarters, or as an affirmation of the correctness of his global warming scare job. Look, if Al Gore really believed in what he's peddling, namely we all have to make significant lifestyle changes to reduce our carbon emissions or we going to face deathly consequences, he'd change his own behavior. But he doesn't - he burns through carbon based energy at a rate far beyond the average American. Maybe Al Gore is entirely correct in his predictions - but I'm not going to believe a man who doesn't practice in the slightest what he preaches.

So what does his victory really represent? Coupled with other recent Nobel Peace prize picks, it is clear that the European leftist elite, not content with rendering their own countries impotent, are trying to influence American politics to their liking. If the Nobel Peace Prize committee wants to reduce the presitge of their own award, have at it boys. If they think that a bunch of Norwegian elists sway my thinking, they are sadly mistaken.

October 12, 2007

Five Years of Blogging

I suppose I could have titled this post 5 years down the drain, but I didn't. I didn't because I've enjoyed a lot of the minutes I've spent blogging. Oct 3, 2002 I joined the blogosphere with 3 posts and a design that's changed very little over the years. 1420 posts, 629 comments, and a switch from Greymatter to Movable Type later, I'm still writing. Along the way over 110,000 different people have visited (according to eXTReMe Trackgin) and I've picked up two too infrequent co-authors. Eric Olsen at Blogcritics got me started in blogging, with a short run as a reviewer there. So again, thank you Eric, and may my reader(s) forgive you.

I've had a webpage for almost 11 years now; I started out in AOL Hometown when I put a family newsletter online, and then branched out shortly thereafter into a bloglike creation I called Stimulus and Response. In those days, I did most of my writing at the Fruit of the Murphy Loins various practices or waiting before events (for you non-parents out there, you have to get to things like concerts and dance receitals long before the scheduled start time when your little darling is in them). I continued to branch out under the umbrella of Funmurphys.com, but once the blog got going, all the rest has fallen by the wayside. In internet years, I'm so old the blog should be called Kevin 5.0.

Thanks for reading, 100 years ago I couldn't have hoped my writing would reach over 100,000 people all over the world.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | Inside Bloging | Me

October 10, 2007

Assolutamente! And I Don't Even Drink Coffee

Someday, I'll finish the tale of the Murphy Family's European adventure and include pictures of Venice, my favorite of all cities. Until then, you'll have to make due with this story:

Immediately upon arriving in Venice, Italy, a friend asked a hotel concierge where he and his wife could go to enjoy the city's best. Without hesitation, they were directed to the Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square. The two of them were soon at the cafe in the crisp morning air, sipping cups of steaming coffee, fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the most remarkable of Old World cities. More than an hour later, our friend received the bill and discovered the experience had cost more than $15 a cup. Was the coffee worth it, we asked? "Assolutamente!" he replied.

Venice is that good. Heck, I'd take up drinking coffee just for that experience.

The post I took it from is also quite good, and explores the difference between cost and price and why music, even in the digital age, won't be free. The value (and thus the price a consumer is willing to pay) of an experience to a consumer is not the sum of the costs that go into that experience.

And who says posts about economics have to be dismal and boring?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:52 AM | Economics | European Vacation

October 8, 2007

Torture 2007 Style

In light of this junk article out of the Washington Post about WWII interrogators criticising modern ones, I thought this article was just chilling: CIA May Threaten Detainees with Senate Hearings. Now that would make anyones blood run cold.

Back to the cranky old men, what do we know?

They illegally violated the Geneva convention on reporting the capture of prisoners, and let's be clear here, they knew exactly they were in the wrong and there was no question that the people they were interrogating were legitimately covered by the convention as lawful combatents.

They were not interrogating terrorist true believers who were ready to die for their cause. According to the article, they were interrogating soldiers and scientists. Clearly, some of the participants were quite willing to talk.

It's not clear how much real information they really did glean since the real intellegence story of WWII is that the Allies broke most if not all the important Axis codes during the war (especially Japan's codes). The problem was how much action to take on the information gained so that the enemy wasn't tipped off.

The claim is that they discovered submarine tactics - without naming them. Well, lest we forget it was the British capture of U-boats that led to the breaking of the Naval Enigma code. It wasn't knowledge of U-boat tactics (such as the details of Wolfpack operations), but the use of long range patrol aircraft to cover the North Atlantic that put an end to the U-boat menace.

Another claim is that they learned groundbreaking secrets of rocketry - which could well be, but the Allies didn't capture Werner von Braun his team of scientists until May 2 1945 and Von Braun was trying to surrender to Americans. So we know they came willingly, and they came too late to have any effect on the war.

The final claim was that they learned secrets of microwave technology. Since they weren't interrogating British scientists, perhaps what they mean is they learned about the strengths and limitations of German radar, as the British invented microwave technology and together with the United States held the lead in microwave and radar technology. And when would they have captured a German microwave scientist? Again, it couldn't have been until late in the war.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:36 PM | Current Events

Ahmadinejad Confronted At Another University

Hmm, are the usual busybodies going to take Iranian students to task for a lack of hospitality?

Don't they know this only helps the whackjob in his own country? Don't they know this goes against the traditions of a 7,000 year old country that values hospitality so much, it actually forces foreigners to be guests who never overstay their welcome, even if the visit lasts over a year?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:01 PM | International Politics


I read in the papers about President Bush's heartless veto of SCHIP -- and that's how it's always described, heartless, like he's taking money from orphans or is going to personally infect these nameless masses of kids with some horrible disease and then sit back and laugh in the White House as they aren't treated because they don't have "access" to health insurance - and I had a couple of thoughts.

First off, I thought after the Democrats raised the minimum wage in this country, nobody was going to be poor anymore. Silly me. Too bad they didn't have a set of bench marks for that feel good but harm some while helping some others kind of non-solution. The way to raise wages isn't by legislative fiat but by helping people to be more productive.

Secondly, where were all these handringers when President Bush was proposing tax cuts for parents? What a novel idea, let parents decide where they want to spend their money for the children, not Washington.

The crazy thing is, the fight is over just how much the program gets expanded, and oh by the way we're already covering kids above "the poverty line".

Before we get caught up in all the partisan back and forth, with deception the rule of the day, or go all gushy because children are involved, let's think. What kind of healthcare system do we want - one with more third party pay, or one with less? And how do we want to pay for programs - with targeted taxes on one group to help another group, or with broad based taxes to help broad swaths of society? Do we want a battle over icons, another meaningless skirmish between two political parties, or do we want to think clearly about public policy? Because in the mangled words of a real political titan, here we go again -- down the path of slogan wars and demonizing not just what we don't understand, but what we don't want to understand.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:39 AM | National Politics

October 7, 2007

Department of Weird Coincidences

So I'm reading Instapundit who links Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy about Clarence Thomas and just how prestigious Assistant Missouri Attorney General is, in the course of which he links to a bunch of people who served as Assistant Missouri Attorney General. One of the names, Ottenad, was familiar and so I followed the link to John Ottenad's Missouri Bar bio. Judge Ottenad is the OA advisor for New Horizons district, and I saw plenty of him at the OA Fall Reunion, which I actually blogged about.

And there you have this years odd coincidence.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 2:01 PM | Inside Bloging

Funny Bone Meets Thinking Cap

Hot off the press, get it while it lasts -- the 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded:

MEDICINE: Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report "Sword Swallowing and Its
Side Effects."
You can see one of the authors do his Sword Swallowing

PHYSICS: L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled - and the allied topic of draping.

BIOLOGY: Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night. No link to her classic lecture
"A Bed Ecosystem," but you can look it up in the lecture abstracts of the 1st Benelux Congress of Zoology, Leuven, November 4-5, 1994, p. 36. However, if you value a good nights sleep as I do, I recommend against actually reading her work.

CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung. I just wonder why they thought to look for vanillin there in the first place. Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist."

LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards. No word if this effect has been replicated in mice, which make a better analog for humans.

LITERATURE: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order. Hey, Microsoft can't properly order numbers, so we have no hope of handling "The" properly. A maybe, An probably, but not The.

PEACE: The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon -- the so-called "gay bomb" -- that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other. I'm outraged they didn't include a citation for the fact that this groundbreaking work also examined the desirability of a chemical weapon that created "severe and lasting halitosis" - or that it dates back to at least 1994.

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup. If you're interesting in losing weight, try his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Professor Wansink is also a Stanford grad.

ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

AVIATION: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters. So next time you take your hamster on a long flight, don't forget the Viagra.

While there is a certain silliness to the these, there is more than a little importance. As the award states, the Ig Nobel is for achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:43 PM | Science

October 2, 2007

The War By Ken Burns II

OK, I'm not the only one disappointed in The War. After watching more episodes, I think what bothers me most is that as a collection of rememberances it's fine, but all that the ground eye views add up to is a bunch of ground eye views. Overall strategy is rarely discussed, and only to point out the flaws. So what you are left with is a litany of horor, and let's face it, it doesn't take long for the litany of war horrors to grow repetative. People die, are horribly maimed, starve, become inured to death and the suffering of others, and just want to kill as many of the enemy as it takes to get them to quit. Oh yeah, generals screw up and don't mind killing almost as many of their own men as the enemy. There, I've summed up the show, except for the part where American soldiers committed atrocities like killing prisoners and civilians and lots of our equipment was substandard.

Why were we fighting? From the show, one would think it was only because the Japanese attacked us. Although, it is informative to discover that even by late 1944 America was growing tired of the enormous casualties (Total American deaths in Iraq and Afganistan wouldn't even be a week's worth of American deaths in late 1944). Surely there must have been more to it than that?

Perhaps it's because my father served on a submarine, but I'm a amazed how the word hasn't even been mentioned yet (U-boat has as the Second Happy Time got it's due). Maybe Mr. Burns doesn't realize that submariners suffered the highest loss rate in the war (which isn't to minimize the losses or the terrible experiences of the infantry) but had a huge impact on Japan's ability to wage war. But by golly, I get to hear half the columns written during the war by some newspaperman who's name I've already forgotten.

With all the material, all the footage, all the time, all the money to work with, it should have been amazing. Instead, it's watchable.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:51 AM | TV