An Aggressive Russia

Much has been written and said the last few days regarding the Georgian crisis from an American perspective, including on this site. Political junkies are rapturous over this fresh event. Veterans of the Cold War have reached back into themselves beyond nostalgia, and have burst forth with condemnations, strangely reassured that world tensions have suddenly returned to a realm they know and understand, a place where America was unequivocal in its righteousness. The consensus from these groups, along with so many others, is that we are watching Russia once again act the part of shameless, ruthless aggressor, punishing Georgia beyond cause, possibly beyond any reasoning beyond that of bold, naked intimidation. From where we sit, here in the United States, the crisis in Georgia exists in black and white, with little nuance. Whereas so much damage has been wrought by such uncomplicated reasoning, here is a situation where the starkness of our perceptions and the starkness of reality are not that far apart. Continue reading “An Aggressive Russia”

Gold Medals and Lead Bullets

Three incredible things happened Sunday night. One: the Russian military pursued a defeated foe out of South Ossetia, demanding the surrender of an army defending a democratic nation. Two: China began to pull away from the rest of the world in the gold medal count at the Olympics. Three: The United States was shown to be powerless to stop either of these things. Continue reading “Gold Medals and Lead Bullets”

The Empty Balcony: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Patrick O’Brian published twenty complete Aubrey-Maturin novels in his lifetime, with an unfinished twenty-first published posthumously. The novels are writ large with swashbuckling tales of life in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Thick with naval terminology and period slang, O’Brian is quite effective at transporting reader far away from what comfortable chambers they find themselves and placing them smack on the quarterdeck of a ship of war. O’Brian’s novels are far from high-minded and haughty literary endeavor. They succeed as great historical novels through the skill of O’Brian’s narratives, not the cleverness of his prose. Like a true saltwater-in-the-veins sailor, they lose direction slightly when characters find themselves on land for extended periods, but pages fly when O’Brian throws his characters into pitched battles with superior foes (as he always does — O’Brian treats his sailors savagely, always requiring them to beat tremendous odds). Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”

Oval Office Thunderdome: The Technology Vote

You don’t actually have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country.

— Mark Soohoo, aide to John McCain

You actually do.

— Tracy Russo, Democratic blogger

The information revolution has left a mark on the country and the world every bit as indelible as that of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago. And while no world leader of the time could have been expected to have an industrial-sized loom or steam engine in their offices, today’s leaders should have more than just a passing knowledge of computers and the internet. Continue reading “Oval Office Thunderdome: The Technology Vote”

Film in the Tubes: The Italian Spiderman Movie

Pundits and scholars made bold predictions in the early ’90’s concerning the new World Wide Web’s ability to disseminate information to the masses, and while they all underestimated what the internet would become, there rose a clamor over the information itself. Good versus bad. Culture versus trash. News versus punditry. We all know which side is winning the battle for hearts and minds. This vast repository we have created for information also has an appetite of its own, craving volume to eternally build the noise to some crescendo that, at this point, remains in the far distance. Along with the opposing sides of quality and worth, there exists the obscure — information that would have been lost to time and degrading videotapes were it not for digitization. Look in any video section on any random humor website, and they are there, somewhere: excerpts from foreign, low-budget schlock cinema that has little regard for cinematic excellence or American trademark law. These inept productions laughably maul such cherished personas of pop Americana as Superman, or blatantly insert footage from Star Wars to beef up otherwise weak productions. Never meant to have much life, these turkeys were turned out for quick cash, and were it not for the great information void of the internet, would have remained in obscurity, instead of rising to the slightly more respectable level of kitsch. Continue reading “Film in the Tubes: The Italian Spiderman Movie”