Quotulatiousness

August 10, 2017

QotD: The comfortable shoe revolution

Filed under: Business, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s, “shoes” still meant, basically, “hard leather oxfords”. Ugly stiff things with a high-maintenance finish that would scuff if you breathed on them. What I liked was sneakers. But in those bygone days you didn’t get to wear sneakers past a certain age, unless you were doing sneaker things like playing basketball. And I sucked at basketball.

I revolted against the tyranny of the oxford by wearing desert boots, which back then weren’t actually boots at all but a kind of high-top shoe with a suede finish and a grip sole. These were just barely acceptable in polite company; in fact, if you can believe this, I was teased about them at school. It was a more conformist time.

I still remember the first time I saw a shoe I actually liked and wanted to own, around 1982. It was called an Aspen, and it was built exactly like a running shoe but with a soft suede upper. Felt like sneakers on my feet, looked like a grownup shoe from any distance. And I still remember exactly how my Aspens — both of them — literally fell apart at the same moment as I was crossing Walnut Street in West Philly. These were not well-made shoes. I had to limp home.

But better days were coming. In the early 1990s athletic shoes underwent a kind of Cambrian explosion, proliferating into all kinds of odd styles. Reebok and Rockport and a few other makers finally figured out what I wanted — athletic-shoe fit and comfort with a sleek all-black look I could wear into a client’s office, and no polishing or shoe trees or any of that annoying overhead!

I look around me today and I see that athletic-shoe tech has taken over. The torture devices of my childhood are almost a memory. Thank you, oh inscrutable shoe gods. Thank you Rockport. It’s not a big thing like the Internet, but comfortable un-fussy shoes have made my life better.

Eric S. Raymond, “Eric writes about the shoes”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-09.

July 18, 2017

The upcoming Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War

Filed under: Asia, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Stephen Sherman discusses some of the things that may or may not be given appropriate treatment in the new PBS documentary series to air this fall, covering American involvement in the former French colonies:

Indochina in 1954. Map prepared for the US Military Acadamy’s military atlas series. (Via Wikimedia).

Ken Burns correctly identifies the Vietnam War as being the point at which our society split into two diametrically opposed camps. He is also correct in identifying a need for us to discuss this aspect of our history in a civil and reflective manner. The problem is that the radical political and cultural divisions of that war have created alternate perceptions of reality, if not alternate universes of discourse. The myths and propaganda of each side make rational discourse based on intellectual honesty and goodwill difficult or impossible. The smoothly impressive visual story Burns will undoubtedly deliver will likely increase that difficulty. He has done many popular works in the past, some of which have been seriously criticized for inaccuracies and significant omissions, but we welcome the chance of a balanced treatment of the full history of that conflict. We can only wait and watch closely when it goes public.

The term “Vietnam War” itself, although accepted in common parlance, would more accurately be called “The American Phase of the Second Indochina War” (1965 to 1973). The U.S. strategic objectives in Vietnam must also be accurately defined. There were two inter-related goals: 1) to counter the Soviet and Red Chinese strategy of fostering and supporting “Wars of National Liberation” (i.e., violent Communist takeovers) in third-world nations, and 2) to defend the government of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from the military aggression directed by its Communist neighbor, the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

Arguments offered by the so-called “anti-war” movement in the United States were predominantly derived from Communist propaganda. Most of them have been discredited by subsequent information, but they still influence the debate. They include the nonfactual claims that:

1) the war in South Vietnam was an indigenous civil war,

2) the U.S. effort in South Vietnam was a form of neo-colonialism, and

3) the real U.S. objective in South Vietnam was the economic exploitation of the region.

The antiwar movement was not at all monolithic. Supporters covered a wide range, from total pacifist Quakers at one end to passionate supporters of Communism at the other. There were many idealists in it who thought the war was unjust and our conduct of it objectionable, as well as students who were terrified of the draft, and some who just found it the cause of the day. But some of the primary figures leading the movement were not so much opposed to the war as they were in favor of Hanoi succeeding in the war it had started.

The key question is whether the U.S. opposition to Communism during the Cold War (1947 to 1989) was justifiable. The answer is that Communism (Marxism) on a national level is a utopian ideal that can function only with the enforcement of a police state (Leninism) or a genocidal criminal regime (Stalinism). It always requires an external enemy to justify the continuous hardships and repression of its population and always claims that its international duty is to spread Communism. When Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930, there was no intention of limiting its expansionist ambitions to Vietnam, and he subsequently changed the name to the Indochinese Communist Party at the request of the Comintern in Moscow.

From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. (Via Wikimedia)

June 23, 2017

Patrick MacNee of The Avengers on alcoholism and his life

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Apr 30, 2017

Patrick talks about his mother began to identify as a lesbian. His father moved to India, and his mother began to live with her wealthy partner, Evelyn Spottswood, whose money came from the Dewar’s whisky business. He called her Uncle Evelyn and he despised her.

He talks about his battle with Alcohol, being a Grandfather, working with Diana Rigg and his book Blind In One Ear. He has a delicious sense of humor and such a fun interview.

He was best known for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the British television series The Avengers. Patrick died in June of 2015 at age 93.

May 29, 2017

Mark Steyn on the career of Roger Moore

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

On the weekend, Mark Steyn posted an article discussing the late Sir Roger’s pre-Bond roles:

Roger Moore played 007 in seven Bond films – although it seemed like more at the time. He was a rare Englishman in a role more often played by Celts and colonials – Connery (Scots), Lazenby (Aussie), Dalton (Welsh), Brosnan (Irish)… Any Canadians? Yes. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). For some Ian Fleming fans, Moore was a little too English for a role that benefits from a certain chippiness toward his metropolitan masters. Yet he bestrode the era like a colossus whose legs wee almost as unfeasibly long as they are on the Octopussy poster and whose trouser flares were almost as terrifyingly wide as on the Man With The Golden Gun poster.

[…]

But The Saint, for six years in the Sixties, was a hit of an entirely different scale, and made Moore the first UK TV star to become a millionaire (hence, in the Seventies, the tax exile). Leslie Charteris had created the Saint in the Twenties, and the books are very much of their day. But Moore’s version planted Simon Templar firmly in the Swingin’ Sixties with a lot of Continental dolly birds to give it some Euro-cool. Lew Grade, bored by running a local telly franchise in Birmingham, had his eye on the global market and gave The Saint a rare style for the British TV of its day. It started with the stylized graphics and theme tune, and then, upon the initial reference to Simon Templar’s name, the animated halo appearing over the character’s head, at which Roger Moore would glance amusedly upwards – perhaps the first conscious, and most iconic, deployment of his famous eyebrows.

True, if you paid close attention from week to week, the passenger terminal helpfully labeled “Nice” or “Monte Carlo” or “Geneva” looked remarkably like East Midlands Airport, but Moore’s tuxedoed aplomb held it all together. He was almost too dishy in those days – his beauty spot, for one, seems far more prominent in monochrome – and he sensed that he didn’t have to do too much but stand there looking suave. Everything he would do as Bond he did as Simon Templar: the quips, the birds, the sports cars. But he did it, more or less, for real. He co-owned the series, which eventually made over a third of a billion pounds (which back then, pre-devaluation, wasn’t that far shy of a billion dollars), and he took it seriously enough to serve as producer and director – although, on the one occasion I met him, he characteristically pooh-poohed the idea that he had any talents in either field. The series became less of a mystery-solver and more of a spy caper as it progressed, and indeed in one episode Simon Templar is actually mistaken for James Bond. Sean Connery had been whinging about his Bond burdens since at least Thunderball in 1965, and Roger Moore fully expected to get the call.

[…]

Moore belonged to the last generation of British thespians for whom it was assumed that acting meant presenting as posher than one’s origins. Unlike Lord Brett, young Roger didn’t go to Harrow but to Battersea Grammar School. He dad was a policeman who went to investigate a robbery at the home of Brian Desmond Hurst, a prolific director whose films include the all-time great, Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Constable Moore mentioned that his boy Roger quite fancied being an actor, and Hurst hired him as an extra for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and then paid for him to go to RADA. That’s where he met a young actress called Lois Hooker from Kitchener, Ontario, who changed her name to Lois Maxwell and became the defining Miss Moneypenny. Young Lois and young Roger both poshed up at RADA – although, as snootier critics with more finely calibrated class consciousness were wont to observe, from his Saint days to Lord Brett to Bond he was Lew Grade’s and Cubby Broccoli’s idea of an English gentleman rather than the real thing.

May 16, 2017

Terry Teachout remembers Dragnet

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I vaguely remember watching Dragnet on TV, but the version I watched is apparently just a pale imitation of the original series:

If you’re fifty or older, you won’t need to be told the source of these half-recalled phrases: “The story you are about to see is true.” “This is the city.” “I carry a badge.” “My name’s Friday.” If you’re much younger than that, though, I doubt that you’ll remember Dragnet with any clarity. In the early days of network television, Dragnet was the most successful of all cops-and-robbers TV shows, as well as the most influential. It’s still influential — every episode of Law and Order bears its indelible stamp — but TV has since moved in flashier directions, and I doubt that the narrative conventions brought into being by Jack Webb, the director, producer, and star of Dragnet, will remain conventional for much longer.

For baby-boom TV viewers, Dragnet is both iconic and ironic. The version of the show that ran on NBC from 1967 to 1970, in which Webb was partnered by Harry Morgan, was an exercise in unintended self-parody, full of hippy-dippy druggies and the earnest cops who locked them up and threw away the key. A few of the episodes remain effective in their quaint way, but most are embarrassingly stiff. Part of the problem was that Sergeant Joe Friday, Webb’s character, was the squarest of squares, and it was already chic to smirk at such straight-arrow types by the time I reached adolescence. My father watched Dragnet religiously, though, so I did, too, little knowing that what I was seeing each week was a recycled, watered-down simulacrum of the real thing.

The real Dragnet was the black-and-white version that aired from 1951 to 1959. That series, in which Webb was partnered by Ben Alexander, was pulled out of syndication long ago and has never been legitimately reissued on DVD, nor is any “official” version, so far as I know, currently in the works. Fortunately, a few dozen episodes were inadvertently allowed to go out of copyright, and it’s easy to track down copies of them. […]

Like the later color version, the Dragnet of the Fifties was a no-nonsense half-hour police-procedural drama that sought to show how ordinary cops catch ordinary crooks. The scripts, most of which were written by James E. Moser, combined straightforwardly linear plotting (“It was Wednesday, October 6. It was sultry in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of homicide”) with clipped dialogue spoken in a near-monotone, all accompanied by the taut, dissonant music of Walter Schumann. Then and later, most of the shots were screen-filling talking-head closeups, a plain-Jane style of cinematography that to this day is identified with Jack Webb.

The difference was that in the Fifties, Joe Friday and Frank Smith, his chubby, mildly eccentric partner, stalked their prey in a monochromatically drab Los Angeles that seemed to consist only of shabby storefronts and bleak-looking rooms in dollar-a-night hotels. Nobody was pretty in Dragnet, and almost nobody was happy. The atmosphere was that of film noir minus the kinks — the same stark visual grammar, only cleansed of the sour tang of corruption in high places. But even without the Chandleresque pessimism that gave film noir its seedy savor, Dragnet was still rough stuff, more uncompromising than anything that had hitherto been seen on TV. In 1954 Time called the series “a sort of peephole into a grim new world. The bums, priests, con men, whining housewives, burglars, waitresses, children and bewildered ordinary citizens who people Dragnet seem as sorrowfully genuine as old pistols in a hockshop window.”

May 3, 2017

QotD: “Patrick Macnee was a Serious Feminist”

Filed under: Britain, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Patrick Macnee

  • Refused to model Steed after James Bond because Bond “uses women like battering rams”
  • Embraced the concept of a female partner after being cast opposite a male one for a season
  • Listened when Honor Blackman began telling him about gender inequality
  • Didn’t think that being saved by a woman in any way injured his character’s masculinity
  • Consistently gave the women credit for the success of the show
  • Recognized that the male producers were chauvinists, and blamed himself for not doing more about it
  • Stood up for Linda Thorson when the producers tried to bully her (and was apparently terrifyingly angry about it)
  • Was literally the only person on that show that Diana Rigg never said a bad word about
  • Consistently talked about being raised by women and viewing women as equal to men

Lauren H. Brooks, “Patrick Macnee was a Serious Feminist”, Kinkiness … and Patrick Mcnee, 2017-04-21.

April 23, 2017

The Real Reason We Never Hear From Monty Python Anymore

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 20 Apr 2017

The legendary comedy group Monty Python was once a force of nature, influencing everything that came after them with their surreal, absurdist approach to comedy. So, why don’t we hear from them anymore? When Graham Chapman ceased to be in 1989, fellow Python member Terry Jones described it as “the worst case of party-pooping [he’d] ever seen.” His death came the day before Python’s 20th anniversary, and what followed was a bizarre but fitting eulogy, written to pay tribute to the man who’d written a dead parrot into one of the troupe’s most famous sketches. Chapman becoming an ex-person seemed to put a damper on any kind of authentic reunion, but what about the others? What happened to the late, great Monty Python?

Terry Jones’s illness | 0:44
Michael Palin’s travel shows | 1:54
John Cleese’s purism | 3:01
Terry Gilliam’s moved on | 4:13
Eric Idle’s Broadway ambitions | 5:06
They want to finish on a good note | 6:02

Read more here → http://www.grunge.com/53323/never-hear-monty-python-anymore-2/

April 15, 2017

Charles Mingus Sextet feat. Eric Dolphy – Take the “A” Train [complete]

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Apr 2013

Take the “A” Train

live on April 12, 1964
filmed in Norway

Charles Mingus – Bass
Eric Dolphy – Bass Clarinet
Clifford Jordan – Tenor Sax
Johnny Coles – Trumpet
Jaki Byard – Piano
Dannie Richmond – Drums

April 4, 2017

Ray Manzarek – Riders on The Storm

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on May 21, 2013

The wonderful Ray Manzarek tells of the making of “Riders on The Storm”
Rest in peace Ray

March 3, 2017

“Apollo 8 altered the self-perception of our species forever”

Filed under: History, Space, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh contrasts the insane bravado of John F. Kennedy’s moonshot announcement with the more recent insane bravado of Elon Musk and SpaceX:

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded in 2002 by billionaire adventurer Elon Musk, says it is developing plans to fly two unnamed persons to the moon late in 2018. This announcement has created both skepticism and alarm. This is, I think, partly a matter of confusion about prepositions.

If I announced that, despite being Canada’s most sedentary citizen, I was going to Mount Everest next week, you would probably know better than to assume I was going UP the mountain. SpaceX’s proposal is to send a manned spacecraft beyond the moon. That’s the word they use in the SpaceX press release, and whoever chose it should get a big fat bonus. “Beyond” is an English word of unparalleled connotative power and romance.

But, of course, going beyond the moon — more prosaically, looping around it and coming back — is much, much simpler than landing ON it. It is probably not a fantastically difficult challenge, and the company’s zany-sounding timeline may be justified. (Mind you, this is not a prediction.)

Even if you are old enough to have followed the golden age of spaceflight as it happened, you may not understand or remember the half-insane ambition of John F. Kennedy’s original proposal to land men on the moon. For young and old, the moment that the Apollo 11 lunar module landed on the Sea of Tranquility tends to obscure everything else about the tale in retrospect. But no U.S. astronaut had orbited the Earth yet when JFK threw down the gauntlet. No spaceship had photographed, much less touched, the moon.

Taken by Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, at mission time 075:49:07 (16:40 UTC), while in orbit around the Moon, showing the Earth rising for the third time above the lunar horizon. The lunar horizon is approximately 780 kilometers from the spacecraft. Width of the photographed area at the lunar horizon is about 175 kilometers. The land mass visible just above the terminator line is west Africa. Note that this phenomenon is only visible to an observer in motion relative to the lunar surface. Because of the Moon’s synchronous rotation relative to the Earth (i.e., the same side of the Moon is always facing Earth), the Earth appears to be stationary (measured in anything less than a geological timescale) in the lunar “sky”. In order to observe the effect of Earth rising or setting over the Moon’s horizon, an observer must travel towards or away from the point on the lunar surface where the Earth is most directly overhead (centred in the sky). Otherwise, the Earth’s apparent motion/visible change will be limited to: 1. Growing larger/smaller as the orbital distance between the two bodies changes. 2. Slight apparent movement of the Earth due to the eccenticity of the Moon’s orbit, the effect being called libration. 3. Rotation of the Earth (the Moon’s rotation is synchronous relative to the Earth, the Earth’s rotation is not synchronous relative to the Moon). 4. Atmospheric & surface changes on Earth (i.e.: weather patterns, changing seasons, etc.).
NASA photo via Wikimedia.

January 10, 2017

QotD: Gender monomania

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania — the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

January 7, 2017

QotD: LSD and the Baby Boomers

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

My classmates [destroyed themselves on drugs]. The authentic imaginations, the really innovative people of my generation, the most daring of my generation took the drug. Now I, for some reason, felt that the LSD was untested, and I did not want to experiment with it. But I was very interested in it. I was interested in all types of vision quests at the time. I went up with fellow students [from SUNY-Binghamton] to see Timothy Leary speak at Cornell. I saw him, and it made me uneasy that here was the guru with such a crowd around him, but his face was already twitching. I could see that this was not going to end well, and it did not.

So when I got to graduate school in 1968, I can attest to the fact that no authentically radical student of the 1960s ever went to graduate school. So all that were left were the time-servers, who parasitically [lived] on the achievements of the 1960s, for heaven’s sake. Any authentic leftist who had a job at a university in the 1970s or ’80s or ’90s should have been opposing the entire evolution of the university — that is, toward this administrative bureaucracy that has totally robbed power from the faculty. The total speciousness and fraud of academic leftism is proven by the passivity of these people in every department of the university to that power play that happened.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

January 5, 2017

Thomas Sowell

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren on the recently announced retirement of economist Thomas Sowell:

Born in the rural poverty of North Carolina, raised in Harlem, he remained personally acquainted with the fate of his race. A disciplined and unexciteable controversialist, he rose closest to exhibiting passion when discussing, for instance, the destruction of the black family by the Great Society of Lyndon Baines Johnson — how it arrested the social and economic advancement blacks had been making by their own efforts to overcome the monstrous history of slavery. By its “helping hand” the government rewarded unwed motherhood, punished enterprise, and promoted crime. In addition to family, it undermined religion, and finally helped install the abortion mills which disproportionally reduce the black population. And all of this by legislation drumrolled from the start with pseudo-Christian moral posturing.

Sowell could understand this through the economic analysis of moral hazard. Reward people for making irresponsible life choices, for discarding prudence and embracing victimhood and dependency — the result may be predicted. The question whether the policies were the product of invincible stupidity or demonic inspiration is moot: for stupidity is among the devil’s excavating tools. He is a master policy analyst, to whom men are merely statistics to be crunched; and to the stupid man he proposes the job-ready shovel, by which to dig his own grave.

December 21, 2016

Repost – The Monkees – “Riu Chiu” HD (Official Music Video) – from THE MONKEES – THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu Ray

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 15 Dec 2015

The Monkees perform “Riu Chiu” from Episode 47, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show”.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

November 6, 2016

Did “Trudeaumania” exist outside the press corps?

Filed under: Cancon, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Literary Review of Canada, Kenneth Whyte compares two new books on Pierre Trudeau and “Trudeaumania”:

Trudeaumania, by common understanding, refers to a state of mind that prevailed in 1968 when a swinging intellectual bachelor from Montreal rose to the leadership of the governing Liberal Party and swept Canada off its feet on his way to a majority victory in a national election campaign.

It never happened, at least not in any quantifiable way. Pierre Trudeau in 1968 was a politician. Elections are how we keep score in politics. Careers are made, governments change, history is shaped by electoral results. The 1968 election gave Pierre Trudeau his first majority government and revealed to the world his peculiarly Canadian charisma, but no matter how many women (and journalists) swooned in the course of his campaigns, there is nothing in the data to suggest anything resembling a mania.

[…]

Litt and Wright have combed the same newspaper and television archives, providing, between them, a neat case study of how historians tend to find what they want in the record. The weight of evidence is on Litt’s side. The front-page photos and evening news footage of Mod Trudeau—the “single, youthful, athletic, and fashionable [candidate] with a liberated-lifestyle” — are more plentiful and impactful than editorials on Intellectual Trudeau, editor of Cité Libre, circulation 500. Litt finds reason for the best-selling status of Trudeau’s book of constitutional essays on its dust jacket:

Pierre Elliott Trudeau is almost incredible: A Prime Minister who swings, who is described by Maclean’s magazine as “an authoritative judge of wine and women,” who drives a Mercedes, throws snowballs at statues of Laurier and Stalin, wears turtleneck sweaters and says things like “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Media imagery was critical to Trudeau’s emergence. Wright is correct in that Trudeau could be underwhelming in televised debates, formal speeches and long interviews. It was his spontaneous performances, catalogued by Litt, that created an endless supply of news hits: Trudeau dancing to rock ’n’ roll beside his campaign bus, Trudeau using a hanging microphone as a punching bag, Trudeau jumping over railings to get at his worshippers, Trudeau wearing ascots and sandals and saluting supporters with Buddhist bows, Trudeau posing shirtless and in yoga positions (yes, him too), Trudeau sliding down bannisters and performing somersaults off the diving board at a hotel pool, and, of course, Trudeau kissing, on the lips, random 16-year-olds on the street.

[…] Explains Litt: “A strange passion swept the media ranks, precipitating an idolization of Trudeau akin to that of an ancient religious sect worshipping a fertility god.”

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