July 31, 2022

Meanwhile: In the Taiwan Straits

The People's Republic of China is holding live fire drills with naval and costal artillery assets as the U.S. Navy sends a carrier strike group into the contested waters around the Republic of China on Taiwan. 


All this is because the U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, offhandedly mentioned that she was going to visit Taiwan as part of her visit to several east Asian countries.  The Chicoms reacted with the grace and dignity one has come to expect from them over the last few years, threatening President Biden in the course of an angry two hour phone call between him and Party Chairman Xi Xinping and publicly threatening to blow the U.S. congressional delegation's plane out of the sky if they actually look like they are going to land on Taiwan.  

My dislike of the current Speaker of the House is nothing short of Brobdingnagian, but I laud her for standing by an ally. I also think that she and the congressional delegation now HAVE to visit Taiwan as not doing so will send a message of weakness and acquiescence that will almost certainly come back to haunt us most calamitously in the near future. 

China, internally, is currently in far greater turmoil than is generally appreciated, (but that even commies are noting) and its leadership cadre are looking for a distraction that can shore up support amongst the people and assure the populace that the regime still has the "Mandate of Heaven", which, while not recognized by the politburo, is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in China.

Things are sufficiently messed up in the Middle Kingdom right now that it is quite possible that Xi might roll the dice in hopes of a 'short victorious war'. 

Taiwan is where the vast majority of our semi-conductors are made, at least the ones not made with Chinese spyware. Taiwan is actually of such strategic importance that it's a place that most Democrats, Republicans, and even some Libertarians are willing to fight for for both moral, economic and strategic reasons. 

This could get very hot, very quick. 

Fill your tanks with gas tonight. 

Maybe buy some canned food. 



And save some bottle caps. 

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Nichelle Nichols 1932-2022


Nichelle Nichols, best known for playing Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, has passed away at 89. 




Nichols was a talented entertainer who appeared in 27 films and whose career saw her give superb performances as an actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, songwriter and director. 

She also worked for NASA, initially as recruiter for women and minority employees, (successfully, she personally recruited Guy Bluford and Sally Ride among others) but later she worked for the agency in more substantive roles. She was an amateur astronomer and a lifelong space enthusiast who served for many years on the board of governors of the National Space Society. 

She was most famous for her role as Lt. Uhura, on Star Trek, a role that she gave considerable gravitas to. Most other female characters in the original series tended to be 'window dressing' but Nichols' character gave off a distinct impression of competence and professionalism. She managed this while being one of the best looking women on the show. 

Most of us know of her through her work on the Science Fiction convention circuit, where she was always charming and professional. 

She certainly led a long and full life, but she will be sorely missed. 

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July 25, 2022

Safe at Last!


The people of New York are now free from the terrible scourge of gel blasters.

This is the absolute state of progressivism right now.

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July 11, 2022

Shinzo Abe

As the whole world knows, Shizo Abe, the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan has been assassinated


The U.S. press, as is their wont, are rather maligning his memory, but Abe was one of the most consequential world leaders of the last 20 years. 




He was certainly a patriot and a nationalist, but he was also very much an internationalist, working tirelessly to negotiate defense and trade agreements with other members of the Asia-Pacific region, contributing to peace and stability in that part of the world. He recognized China's dark turn earlier than most world leaders, and while most countries refused to take the growing threat seriously, Abe was tenacious in setting up alliances and agreements against considerable diplomatic headwinds. 

The free world would be in a far worse position if not for Abe, who without starting a single war managed to tower over most of the world's leaders in stature and consequentiality during his time in office.

He will be missed. 

There are further thoughts on the man and his legacy here and here.

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A Quick Post Before the Blog Crashes Again

Banality is below the fold.

Oh look. A relevant picture.


more...

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Can I Make a Post Without the Blog Vanishing When I Hit Publish?




UPDATE: Well, it appears that is at least theoretically possible to do so.

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July 04, 2022

Happy July 4th!




Things might look grim now, with riots, shootings, shortages of fuel and a looming food shortage. We have a governing cadre that holds us in contempt as it imposes these unpleasantries and further seeks to impose  far greater restrictions on our freedom than were even conceived by the British Parliament of the late 1700s.

However, perspective is important. When we hear from people who are convinced, for instance, that civil war is imminent... 


I mean..nobody in particular

...remember that they lack the age to fully understand that we've been through this before. 

This is not to say they are dumb. A lot of the doomers are just a few years too young to grasp just how bad the things were in living memory. By the late 1970s, we had much the same situation with stagflation and shortages. domestic terrorists planting bombs from coast to coast, and overseas defeats that emboldened our enemies, and we had drugs tearing apart communities and other crime skyrocketing. We ALSO had 22,000 nuclear weapons aimed at us by a nation that claimed it was dedicated to world peace, and defined peace as our enslavement.

A few years later we were rebounding, and we saw a time of peace and prosperity that lasted with minor fuctuations for nearly 40 years and survived the abuse of multiple unenlightened leaders until the various long simmering calamities that came to a head in 2008 began the slide into our current malaise. 

The United States is robust. It is so because it is founded on the principles of the enlightenment and the ability of people to both cooperate and say no. We have a federal system that allows all 55 states and territories to set up their own ways of doing things and that also allows cooperation on matters of mutual importance. 

This dual dynamic of cooperation and individualism was not codified for some years after our founding, and remains an ongoing experiment.

But today is the day that we remember those flawed and human but extremely wise individuals who 246 years ago signed a document that was not a law or set of governing documents, but an affirmation of principals and a declaration of our independence from those who presumed they had the divine right to rule us...

On this day, 246 years ago a group of delegates set in motion our very imperfect but quite magnificent experiment, that has faced myriad obstacles, some of our own making, but has always bounced back better and stronger than before.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring 

Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The Signatures.....

Georgia:
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton


North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn


South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton


Massachusetts:
John Hancock


Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton


Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton


Pennsylvania:
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross


Delaware:
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean


New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris


New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark


New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple


Massachusetts:
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry


Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery


Connecticut:
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott


New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

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July 03, 2022

The Mechanical Man

Last night, besides the gachiest gacha game that ever gachad' and a successful grind session in FF14, the stream presented to our 8 viewers a 1921 Italian techno-thriller. 



Only about 26 minutes of this ~80 minute film still exists, and the title cards of the only English version I've found are not particularly helpful. 


In fairness, most of what's missing is merely context to the story. The footage we saw last night eschews such boring world building to get down to the important business of screwball chases, cosplay follies, and robot rampages. 

So, for the 8 non-robotic viewers that my stream summary says watched the film, here is an overview of of what seems to have been going on, cobbled together from a discussion in film class 10 years ago, Wikipedia, the very sparse English subtitles in the version we watched, and the infinitesimal amount of information I was able to glean via my very atrophied 2 years of Latin from the more extensive Portuguese subtitles.  

Spoilers Follow:

This was an interesting and remarkably forward looking film in a lot of ways.  

The basic set up is that a city in post WW1 Italy is being beset by rising crime and a string of political assassinations. Meanwhile one Professor D'Ara, a scientist/engineer, has become the talk of Italy by inventing what is essentially an anthropomorphic, remote controlled drone, to which he gives the perfectly straightforward name of Mechanical Man. The device is fantastically durable, being built like a light tank and possesses speed comparable to an automobile. It is hoped that it can be used in mining and dangerous heavy industrial jobs.




A gang of criminals led by a remarkably competent and brazen woman(for a '20s film) named Mado attempts to steal the device but they are thwarted and it is put under close guard. Mado's gang proceeds to kidnap and tourture Dr. D'Ara in an attempt to get the robot blueprints from him. The police, led by a famous detective do locate and overwhelm the mob, arresting most of the leadership including Mado who is badly burned and suffers a heart attack during the raid. D'Ara did not break but the police discover he died from the gangs tender ministrations. 

Mado turns out to be as dangerous and creative as The Joker, from Batman. It turns out that she faked her heart attack and her burn. Using her  feigned coma to lull the hospital workers into complacency, she sets fire to the hospital, murdering numerous patients in the process, frames Saltarello (Dr. Dara's brother) for arson and murder,  swaps a murdered nurse for her body (faking her own death) and escapes Scott free to reunite with the remains of her gang. (This is where the limited surviving footage mostly picks up...with the villain's clever arson and Joker-esqe escape from the hospital)

She the kidnaps Dr. Dara's daughter and forces her to give her the location of the robot blueprints. The detective Ramberti, who arrested Mado suspects that she is not dead but is unable to do anything until he finds Dr. Dara's daughter who has been free'd by The late professor's brother who is on the run from police, having been framed for arson and mass murder. (Whew!) 

Meanwhile a series of smash and grab robberies are taking place that generally involve safe's being stolen wholesale or armored cars being broken into. Also a series of murders, with the victims being pulverized transpire over the next few weeks. There is one group of witnesses, a rich socialite reports that a mechanical man tore into her house and stole her jewelry safe while she and her friends were far enough away to not be noticed.

Mado has built her own mechanical man.

Allow a moment of silence for the chap that took refuge in the dresser.

Saltarello meanwhile is still on the run from police and trying to clear his name and avenge his brother. He has a close encounter with the mechanical man as the latter assassinates a politician. 



He takes refuge at a costume ball, where, for reasons not entirely clear, he suspects something bad is about to go down. The ball, has apparently been a big looming "thing" for most of the movie, is being attended by a veritable "Who's Who" of Italian Politics, Industry, and old money. He has to flee, but not before he dresses up as Napoleon. 

Meanwhile, Mado sics her Mechanical Man on Detective Ramberti and a number of witnesses including the late Dr. Dara's daughter and Dara's engineering assistant . They flee but discover that not only is the Mechanical Man bullet proof, but it can break through walls and iron gates. It also has cutting torches in its fingers that make short work of the iron door they attempt to slow it down with. They escape in a car, but the mechanical man almost overhauls the car until Terminator1921 suffers a short circuit and crashes by the side of the road in flames. 


This chase is silly, but surprisingly good.


Ramberti and his party then run into a bunch of bicycle cops with his car, (literally) and he subsequently tries to get help to recover the infernal device.

Meanwhile Mado is able to get a team together to recover the Mechanical Man before Ramberti gets to it. 

 Saltarello escapes the costume ball, dressed as...uh...Napoleon or something, steals a police motorcycle, and is pursued and confronted by another detective (who is in an 18th century...dress, because he was undercover at the costume ball). The detective explains that Saltarello is no longer under suspicion for murder/arson/jaywalking. 

The public is completely unaware of ANY of this so, a few hours later when some cosplayer shows up at the costume ball dressed as the famous 9 foot tall mechanical man, the person is awarded best in show and becomes the toast of all the movers and shakers of Italy, sitting down with them and not saying anything. 


"This is not at all sus. Not one bit."

This lasts until, well, he gets right up close to all the most important people in the social register and reveals that his costume...isn't...and begins crushing them, throwing them off balconies, and generally being impervious to bullets. 

MEANWHILE: Dr Dara's assistant, who has been trying to get the ORIGINAL mechanical man working again succeeds in getting the wireless remote control to work. He then sends the ORIGINAL Mechanical Man out to fight Mado's Mechanical Man. They engage in a robot slap-fight in the ballroom, destroying it in a most satisfactory manner as they wack away at each other. 


Botfight. BOTFIGHT!

Saltarello arrives at Mado's headquarters to find her frantically manipulating the wall sized control panel during the fight which she is observing via a television screen. 


(BTW, in 1921 Television won't be invented for 7 more years)

He starts to sneak up on the most dangerous lady in Italy but decides to throw random switches in the hopes of throwing off her control. As a result the control panel shorts out. Mado is electrocuted and dies. The Ersatz mechanical man goes berzerk but is subdued by the original and explodes. 

Mado is revealed to be a famous rich socialite with connections in politics and industry (explaining how she had access to the physical plant needed to make a Mechanical man in mere days). She also is the person responsible for having the big costume ball that gathered all the assassinate-able people in one place. The second detective, no longer in his dress, thanks everyone including  Saltarello who is still dressed like Napoleon. 

Later, Saltarello, in a normal suit, says his goodbyes to everyone and gets in a plane and flies off into the sunset.

*******************

Years ago I was told by a film student, when the discovery of this film caused the topic to come up, that this was one of a series of "great detective" films that was popular in Italy at that time, and that the detective character in this film is a star of numerous other films around the same time. That is, this would be equivalent to Sherlock Holmes meets The Terminator. I don't know if that is true, the detective is a central but supporting character in the extant footage, but I'll put it out there. If there is a "franchise character" in this it's seems more likely to be Salterello, though I can't find any references to such a thing.

There are probably several details that I've got wrong. If anybody speaks Portugese, then please correct me in the comments.  

*******************

I was chuffed when I heard that the remnants of this historic film now had English subtitles, but as we discovered during the stream, they were so laconic as to not be particularly helpful. When they are compared to the very lengthy Portuguese subtitles, it's obvious the 'restorers' did not hire a translator. 

My onstream commentary was based on my knowledge of the film from reputation, and the little bit of research I'd done, fully expecting that "English Subtitles" meant something. 

On the other hand, the DMCA-Free Electro-Swing BGM that I paired with the film on stream was a surprisingly good fit. 

In any event, this was an enjoyable watch, being a completely whackaloon little film that had all of its buildup and exposition destroyed allowing one to get right into the important business of fire, explosion, murders, and the first Robot Battle in cinematic history. So I'm calling it a win. 


Screenshots for this post are not by me but were knicked from the film's IMDb entry and Tumbler's SciFi .gifs page.

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