Anyone interested in Architecture be sure to check out this excellent online Yale course dedicated solely to Roman Architecture
Anyone interested in Architecture be sure to check out this excellent online Yale course dedicated solely to Roman Architecture
Interesting and thoughtful article by David Horowitz about his friendship with Christopher Hitchens and their mutual travels through the political landscape.
On the complexities and contradictions of Christopher Hitchens
Aristotle gets the whole range of guilt applied to him. Usually he is blamed for the dark ages, because everyone believed Aristotle had all ready figured everything out, so didn’t bother to try to figure out anything new. Aristotle himself would have been disgusted by such an attitude. This writer from a forum I frequent argues that Aristotle was virtually irrelevant. His comment and my response follows:
(Aristotle hater) - " What you present here is a testable hypothesis: Hellenistic science and technology descend from Aristotle. I’d have to see your data. The best way to show this would be to show that later Greek scientists explicitly cited him. Second best would be to show that their contemporaries reported this. You might know of others. James Lennox, an Objectivist and an expert on Aristotle’s biology, notes that even his biology fell fairly quickly into obscurity after his death. To show that he was influential in fields that he didn’t work in (or where he was dead wrong, such as cosmology and mechanics) would be a hard sell, but you’re welcome to try."
Eratosthenes, when setting out to measure the size of the Earth in Alexendria around 240 BC cited Aristotle’s arguments proving the Earth was indeed a sphere - that constellations appeared lower or higher in the sky as one traveled north or south, and that the shadow of the Earth cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse was always round. Eratosthenes was a librarian of the Library of Alexandria and friend to Archimedes.
Aristotle argument that the Earth did not move based on the observation that the relative position of the stars never changed, though wrong, was completely reasonable given that stellar parrallex is not visible by the naked eye and was not observed until the 1800’s, it was never the less cited by Ptolemly when arguing his Geocentric model and was prevalent enough to not only be mentioned by Tycho Brahe, but to in fact SWAY his opinion to reject Heliocentricity in favor of Geocentrciticy (though begrudgingly) Tycho Brahe was the best naked eye astronomical observer to have ever lived, he spent years trying to observe stellar parallelx, and finding none, went against Copernican theory and supported the Ptolemly / Aristotle view.
Daniel N. Robinson Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Georgetown University and a member of the philosophy faculty of Oxford University says of Aristotle in his Teaching Company lecture "Great Ideas of Philosophy"
"I’ve occasionally said to classes that if I had to single out any event as evidence that some civilization out in the milky way was taking pity on humanity for its slow progress…the evidence might well be Aristotle and his accomplishments. Its almost as if such a distant galactic neighbor said ‘Goodness sakes those human beings do not seem to be getting along at all, Aristotle, why don’t you go down there and get things going"
"The sheer intellectual power of this man, expressing itself in biology, natural science, ethics, politics, metaphysics, logic, is simply without parallel in the history of thought. There is almost no academic or scholarly subject taught that does not bare his stamp of influence."
Aristotle was a student of Plato’s and greatly admired his teacher. However as his own philosophical inquiries progressed he began to question the wisdom of his teacher, wrestling with this and eventually coming to terms with it, he wrote "Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth"
For centuries after the age of the classical philosophers most of western civilization had embraced Aristotle’s ideas about reality entirely uncritically, while embracing most of Plato’s ideas about knowledge and religion. The Dark ages were characterized by an uncritical acceptance of the teachings of the ancients, where for nearly 1500 years virtually no advancements were made and all questions about reality were directed toward the ancient texts.
Aristotle would have never welcomed this, his own writings are full of deep sense of inquiry and his own opinions changed on many topics as he investigated them further. Aristotle’s deeply inquisitive nature is evidenced by his love for collecting and analyzing animals, attributing characteristics to them and classifying them - the entire science of Taxonomy was primarily founded by Aristotle, as well as the rules for describing nature accurately in the what we today refer to as Aristotlean logic. But on some matters his speculations were wrong, and the uncritical acceptance of these for centuries hindered further progress.
The Roman doctor Galen, who did in fact proclaim to have figured everything out in medicine, was also uncritically accepted throughout the Dark Ages, he is the origin of blood letting and disease coming from an imbalance in the various ‘humours’ (fluids in the body) today some words are historical descendants of his medical quackery, such as being sanguine.
The middle ages did cultivate an atmosphere of inquiry and questioning, but it was entirely focused on theological matters that had little relevance to material progress on earth, and it was only when that questioning attitude was shifted toward descriptions of reality that the renaissance and scientific revolutions would begin. One great admirer of Aristotle was Isaac Newton. And one incorrect teaching of Aristotle’s was that objects need to be perpetually pushed in order to keep moving, but Newton’s understanding of nature was making it obvious to him that some things keep moving - even forever - without slowing down and in fact something else has to push on them to slow them. This today is his first law of motion and the notion we readily recognize as inertia, but the fact that he was proposing something that contradicted Aristotle greatly disturbed him.
Wrestling with this, he finally came to terms with it from Aristotle’s own famous quote about Plato. Paraphrasing Aristotle and illustrating both his admiration for Aristotle and accepting that he had moved beyond Aristotle’s teaching, Isaac Newton wrote in the margin of one of his notebooks "Aristotle is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth"
Anti-Nuclear Power Hysteria and it’s Significant Contribution to Global Warming…
The decline of nuclear power has had a significant effect on global carbon emissions and subsequently any anthropogenic global warming effect. To see the extent of this influence, let us first take a look at total U.S. carbon emissions since 1900.
According to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, from 1900 to 2006, US carbon emissions rose from 181 MMT (million metric tons) to 1,569 MMT.
Taking a look at US electricity generation by type, according to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. generates 51% of its power from coal, and cumulatively about 71% of its power from fossil fuel sources.
Comparing the energy source to Carbon emissions, the burning of coal to generate electricity alone emits more CO2 than any other single source, about one-third of the total.
As the US Electrical Generation by Type figure shows, about 20% of the U.S. electrical supply comes from nuclear power. Let us now imagine that the U.S. never built any nuclear power plants, but instead built more coal plants to generate the electricity those nuclear plants would have generated.
According to the Energy Information Administration, since 1971, 18.6 billion MW•h (Megawatt hour) of electrical power have been generated by nuclear sources (1). According to the US Department of Energy, every kW•h (kilowatt hour) of electricity generated by coal produces 2.095 lbs of CO2 (2).
As the calculations in the table above show, every MW•h of electricity generated by coal generates 2,095 pounds of carbon dioxide. For 18.6 billion MW•h at 2,095 pounds of CO2 per MW•h, this amounts to 39.0 trillion additional lbs of CO2, or 17.7 billion metric tons. Finally, converting the 17.7 billion metric tons of CO2 to carbon results in 4.842 billion, or 4,842 million metric tons of carbon.
What all this shows is that had this power been generated by coal plants, an additional 4,842 million metric tons of carbon would have been released into the atmosphere. Breaking this calculation down by year, what would this have made our carbon emissions record look like?
Again in blue we see the real world US carbon emissions, but in green we see what the carbon emissions would have been if all the electricity generated by our nuclear infrastructure had instead been generated by coal power plants.
In all, carbon emissions would have been 14.6% higher, with 1,782 MMT of carbon released without nuclear power plants, while only 1,552 MMT are released with our current nuclear infrastructure. This is why many leading environmentalists, such as James Lovelock (author of the Gaia Hypothesis) are vocal supporters of nuclear power.
But this chart is not entirely fair to nuclear power, because the growth of nuclear power was severely derailed by environmentalist hyperbole and outright scaremongering. Because of the attacks by environmentalists on nuclear power, many planned power plants were cancelled, and many existing plants licenses were not renewed. The result, according to Al Gore himself in "Our Choice” was:
"Of the 253 nuclear power reactors originally ordered in the United States from 1953 to 2008, 48 percent were canceled, 11 percent were prematurely shut down, 14 percent experienced at least a one-year-or-more outage…Thus, only about one-fourth of those ordered, or about half of those completed, are still operating." (3)
Let us take a look then at U.S. carbon emissions if the U.S. had simply built and operated the power plants that were originally planned.
Yup, that’s right people: if the US had simply built and operated the nuclear power plants it had planned and licensed, it would today be producing not only less carbon emissions than it did in 1972, but would in fact be emitting almost half the carbon emissions it is now.
But let’s not forget that the very planning and licensing of nuclear power plants was drastically affected by the anti-scientific opposition. Looking again at the Energy Information Administrations figures, the average sustained growth for nuclear generating capacity was increasing by about 28.8 million Megawatt hours for a 20 year period from 1971 to 1989
Here we see a chart taken from the EIA data which shows the growth of real nuclear generating capacity in blue, and the projected growth in red, had the growth of the previous 20 year period been sustained (remember, this is still only about one-fourth of the intended capacity). In this graph, any year which produced less than the average of the previous 20 years was increased to that average of 28.8 million MW•h.
Now let’s take this projected growth and imagine the U.S. had actually built a nuclear infrastructure at this level. What would our carbon emissions look like?
Incredibly, U.S. carbon emissions today would be almost one-fourth of what they are currently. These numbers are estimated by taking the average yearly increase from 1971 to 1989 in nuclear generating capacity and projecting it to the current day, and since these numbers are only one-fourth of the original planned capacity, the result is multiplied by four. In case you think my numbers are fanciful, let’s see if there are any countries out there that did not get entirely persuaded by the anti-nuclear hysteria, and how that affected their carbon emissions.
After the energy crisis of the 70s, France, which was highly dependent on imported oil for electricity production, decided to divest themselves of Middle Eastern oil dependence. Lacking significant fossil fuel deposits, they opted for a nuclear infrastructure. Today nuclear power generates about 78% of France’s electrical power supply, and it is today the world’s largest exporter of electrical energy. France alone accounts for 47% of Western Europe’s nuclear generated electricity (3).
While we do not see the production in France dropping to half of its 1970s levels as we would have in the U.S. had it continued the transition to a nuclear infrastructure, nevertheless the 40% reductions are close and tremendously significant.
Consider from the presented information what the total potential nuclear generating capacity for the US would be if it sustained the high level growth and achieved its planned capacity.
By the year 2000, the US nuclear infrastructure could have been generating 100% of the domestic electrical supply. This is not an extraordinary claim considering, again, that France generates 78% of electrical energy from nuclear power.
Extrapolating this to the global climate, let’s take a look at the global carbon emissions levels and compare them against a world where the U.S. sustained the first two decades of its nuclear infrastructure growth perpetually and ultimately achieved the original planned capacity.
In green, we see the existing global carbon emissions levels and in purple is the U.S. carbon emission levels if it continued to adopt a nuclear infrastructure. In red then, as a result, we see the global carbon levels would have been almost 15% lower than current levels.
I invite readers to extrapolate then where the total global carbon emissions would be if all the post-industrialized nations had adopted nuclear power – as their natural technological progressions would have dictated – if it were not for the hijacking of this process by anti-scientific hyperbole by scaremongering environmental activists. Many organizations – such as Green Peace, still ardently oppose nuclear power. And these levels, mind you, are only about one-tenth of what the Atomic Energy Commission was projecting based on demand during the 60s, where at its height 25 new nuclear power plants were being built every year, and the AEC anticipated that by the year 2000 over 1,000 nuclear power plants would be in operation in the U.S.. Today only 104 operate.
Let us project an educated guess as to what the resulting reduction in carbon emissions would have been had the European Union (which in 2005 generated 15% of their electricity with nuclear) Japan (34.5% nuclear) and finally, going into the future China and India as they fully industrialize.
All of these facts lead to one conclusion: if manmade global warming is a real problem, then it was in fact caused by environmental alarmism. That is not to say that some environmentalism has not been good, but this atrocious abandonment of reason hangs as an ominous cloud over everything environmentalists advocate. Rational environmentalists, such as James Lovelock, who want a high standard of living for humans and a clean planet are quick to change their minds about nuclear power. Irrational environmentalists who actually do not desire wealthy, comfortable lives for all people on the planet–as well as a clean planet–actively oppose nuclear power. Nuclear power is a litmus test for integrity within the environmentalist community.
If you want to spur the economy, stop global warming, and undermine the oil-fueled, terrorist-breeding, murderous theocracies of the world, the solution is simple: build nuclear power plants.
- Sources -
Energy Information Administration - http://www.eia.doe.gov/
US Electrical Generation Sources by Type - http://www.clean-coal.info/drupal/node/164
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/
CDIAC US Carbon Emissions - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/trends/emissions/usa.dat
CDIAC France Carbon Emissions - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/fra.html
(1) - "18.6 billion MW•h (Megawatt hours) of electrical power have been generated by nuclear sources" – Energy Information Administration - http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec8_3.pdf
(2) – "every kW•h of electricity generated by coal produces 2.095 lbs of CO2” – US Department of Energy "Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Generation of Electrical Power in the United States” - http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/environment/co2emiss00.pdf
(3) - Al Gore (2009). Our Choice, Bloomsbury, p. 157.
(4) - "France alone accounts for 47% of western Europe’s nuclear generated electricity” - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008 World Nuclear Industry Status Report, http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/reports/2008-world-nuclear-industry-status-report/2008-world-nuclear-industry-status-re-1
My brother received a new shipment today which came in one of the smaller international shipping containers. These fantastic steel boxes are one of the most under appreciated foundations of modern trade. For centuries shipments moving from country to country, or from one mode of transportation to another, had to be transferred from one type of storage container to another.
A standard 40 long container
Even within nations different shipping companies might utilize dozens of different types of incompatible storage systems. After many compromises between various international and domestic shipping companies, a mutually beneficial standard was agreed on in the late 60’s. It’s noteworthy that the evolution of these standards came from the mutually beneficial result to all shipping parties and was not the result of government regulation, in fact, the Interstate Commerce Commission’s regulatory oversight had to be curtailed in order for these standards to become fully integrated, the ICC oversight was later abolished.
Cargo containers loaded onto deep well rail cars
The original containers standard was an 8 foot by 8 foot cube, and later 20 and 40 foot versions were adopted. Today numerous additional heights and lengths have been adopted. Some even come with drop down legs so they can transfer between trucks without the use of a crane. The containers are constructed of corrugated steel and inside are lined with numerous fastening points and rails for adjustable height multi level storage.
Shipping Containers loaded onto Semi’s
The standard 8x20 container has an area of 160 square feet, about the size of a large living room, and volume of 1,170 cubic feet. The container weighs 4,850 lbs but can be loaded with almost 15 times that, or 60,000 lbs. Single containers can be easily moved between sea going shipping vessels, cargo trains, and semi-trailer trucks. At the corners of each container is a reinforced cube of steel with holes on each outer face, these cubes can be locked quickly and securely together with simple twist locks. These also enable containers to be stacked on top of each and locked together without extra fastening harnesses, the containers can be stacked 7 units high.
Hundreds of containers at a busy port
Immense fast moving cranes have evolved at busy ports to handle the shipping containers. Most pick up single containers only, using four latches which have twist locks in them. A single container can be locked, picked up, moved, and loaded onto a train or truck in just about a few minutes. Often cranes sit on rails of their own so they can move up and down the length of a ship.
Video of crane in operation (sped up)
And then view from the crane loading onto a ship
Multiple cranes at port (notice the compound wheels at the bottom)
Newer crane designs allow up to four containers to be unloaded at one time. Today almost 90% of cargo moves by these containers stacked on transport ships, some 18 million containers make over 200 million trips every year. The largest of sea shipping vessels can carry 14,000 of the large 20 foot containers. At 1300 ft in length, one of the largest, the Emma Maersk, is more than 33% longer than the 882 foot Titanic was but at twice the width it has almost 3 times the volume.
Video of the Emma Maersk Loaded
In 2007 the worlds busiest container shipping port was Singapore which moved 28,000 twenty foot equivalent containers. Take a look at this satellite photo of one of it’s busiest terminal areas, all the shipping vessels, containers, cranes, and ships are clearly visible, and the notion of how ubiquitous and important these containers are becomes clear.
Singapore - Worlds busiest container port 2007
And all the ships in the harbor
Most economists predicted some improvements in trade with standardized containers, but none even remotely anticipated the actual result or that the containers themselves which now direct transportation evolution. Cargo in ports could be moved nearly 20 times faster and the resulting shipping infrastructure is now so streamlined and efficient across the world that frozen shrimp shipped from the far east have a lower carbon foot print than locally caught and road transported shrimp do and have brought consumers a previously un-imaginable variety of low cost goods from all over the world.
Marc Levinson, economist and author of “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” makes the case that this was one of the most significant yet least noticed economic developments in the world and has in fact been a primary element in enabling globalization itself. Clearly these containers have revolutionized shipping and thus raised the standard of living of every human on the planet tremendously.
The containers are so plentiful, ubiquitous, and inexpensive that it is not often cost effective to ship back an empty one for re-use, so many lie in wait for demand to rise in their local storage area. Because of the plethora of inexpensive used shipping containers around the world (A quick google search and I found two 53’ foot containers in Texas for only $3,000!) there are movements to find other creative uses for them, though naturally most zoning boards would object on purely aesthetic grounds.
10 Shipping Container Homes -
A container Condo –
An Office park (Love that cantilevered overhang)
Rumors are the Travelodge will start using them in hotel construction, and Sun Microsystems made a splash in the technology sector when it unveiled a portable self contained data center housed in one that could be delivered globally in hours.
It’s ironic that this is not the first time international shipping had been so standardized and efficient. In the 1800’s the celebrated poet John Keats wrote “Ode to a Grecian Urn” celebrating the beauty of these relics of antiquity.
Grecian Urn or Amphora
These Urns though deserve immense appreciation on a level beyond their beauty; they were the standardized international shipping containers of the Greek and Roman era and contributed as much, relatively, to the prosperity of those societies are our containers do today, in fact the high standards of living the average Roman enjoyed at the height of the Roman Empire would not be matched until the industrial revolution of the1800’s, and the Grecian Urn played a large role in this. Used in great quantities from the 15th century BC to shortly after the fall of the Roman empire in the 7th century AD (when extensive trade collapsed) these ceramic jars are the most commonly found relic of antiquity, and some lost in old ship wrecks still contain their well preserved cargo. It is rumored that the famed marine archaeologist Jacque Cousteau found one still sealed containing 2,000 year old wine, and tried it.
It should seem obvious how useful cargo container standardization was but it took almost 1500 years for it to be re-invented, and then with much resistance. One wonders what other advances await standardized shipping, and what new kinds of markets and goods it will enable. Standardized shipping container carriers are still limited by barriers like port depths, train tunnels, and road bridges – these containers have not yet penetrated the sky. Will we someday cargo trains of the sky and ubiquitous same day international shipping? And will poets of the 4th millennia write appreciative verse when gazing upon the archeological remains of sunken steel shipping containers?
Day two of Italy and Greece started out with the vatican City. Prior to that, however, was one of the low points of the trips, the miserable event that Italians apparently call ‘breakfast’, which, at this hotel, consisted entirely of bread. Where’s my eggs? Bacon? Protein? MEAT? Yikes. Every morning it was what variety of stale cold bread would you like to call ‘breakfast’ Everyone on the trip was heartily disappointed, and even the tour director said it was unusual. Across the hall a large Japanese tour group routinely enjoyed eggs and bacon. To be fare to our Italian hosts, apparently it was EF that skimped us on our ‘continental’ breakfast. Maybe I’m just an annoying American…but bread only?
We took the Metro and got off at the vatican Museum stop, walked a few blocks to the entrance to the walled vatican City. This grayed off section from this Google maps screen shot shows the outline of vatican city.
The satellite perspective of the Google maps view doesn’t give a good appreciation of the scale of the wall surrounding this vatican City, though this image comes close. Notice the cars in the right hand side.
Another google street view image helps appreciate the scale of this wall.
The vatican city is a sovereign city-state with a population of about 900 on a 110 acre complex that is completely landlocked. It represents the smallest country in the world. Brought into it’s present form by treaty in 1929, it was a refuge for Christianity during the middle ages and the home of Emperor Nero’s circus (in ancient Rome, the circus was a loop in a stadium which chariots would race around) A great fire erupted in Rome under the reign of Nero, which some historians suggest he started, and others stories report he sat joyfully playing his liar on a rooftop while watching the city burn. Nero blamed Christians, a minority cult at that time, for the fire, and many were persecuted in this square. Tradition holds that Saint Peter was crucified in that circus, upside down at his request to be distinguished from his lord. Near the circus was a cemetery which Saint Peter was buried in and today St. Peters Basilica sits on top of his likely burial site.
We entered in the Northern part, near the museum. This Google street view shows the entrance we came upon and the medieval wall surrounding the whole vatican City.
This impressive doorway was the old entrance to the vatican city and Museum. That is some of our group passing in front of me. (on to my pictures now)
We didn’t get to go in that cool door though, and instead went into this one, the ‘new’ entrance.
Passing quickly through the museum, some of us hit the ATM’s and others the Bathrooms, then we passed into this courtyard inside the city.
The adjacent building had fantastic renaissance styling.
a close up of the work
Looking south down the courtyard off the balcony were the gardens, which were not open to the public, and in the distance, looming large and hazy, was the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most fantastic buildings in the world. From this view the basilica is about 1,300 feet away.
We turned around and started toward this round building, another impressive piece of renaissance architecture.
We went back inside and passed one building’s width away
And emerged into the ‘pinecone’ courtyard into this view
A close up
The pinecone in the center was a symbol of fertility and life to Romans, and is a bronze from the 1st century AD, originally part of a Roman fountain. A nice view of the building surrounding the pinecone and the niche which emphasizes it.
Most of this courtyard was constructed in the high renaissance period. The first two stories of this was designed and built by the Italian architect Bramante. The design came from scholarly reconstructions of the Roman temple Fortuna Primigenia.
Dying before it’s completion, the third story and the vast half dome, an interesting piece of negative space, was built forming the largest niche that had been built since antiquity.
In the center of the courtyard was a large metal sphere, broken and rotating.
The broken and fragmented sphere, according to the tour guide, represented the fracturing in the world that came from the protestant reformation going on at the time the basilica was constructed. The sphere, ugly, out of place, and non objective, was obviously a recent addition as only ‘modern’ artists would call it art. Though obviously requiring technical mastery and a very unique complex piece of work, it’s theme and manner of achieving it are hardly more than a Roarsarch test and stand in ugly stark contrast to the romantic realism of classical art that fills the courtyard and the vatican city.
According to the tour guide, the spherical work of art is the same size of the sphere that adorns the top of the dome of St. Peters Basilica. In this shot I tried to capture both to help get that sense of scale.
An interesting façade and building in the courtyard, St. Peters again looms in the distance.
the courtyard was adorned with Roman artifacts and artwork. I love this stuff, can’t get enough of it.
A good view of the courtyard pinecone and niche
After that, we headed inside through some of the elaborate galleries and hallways.
It was popular during the renaissance era for wealthy people to collect roman artifacts, and the pope, being the wealthiest, of course had the best collection. We were rushed through this hallway with hundreds of artifacts which I could have spent days in alone, I tried to grab some of the best picutres. This sarcophagas is made of an extremely rare red marble.
Turning the corner, more elaborate halls and stairs.
More Roman Artwork
I wonder what that toe or finger was to?
More elaborate halls
What a great piece this is, Roman art, as we’ll see more of in Pompeii, celebrated existence. Here great art celebrates the intellect, the thinking man.
I want a sarcophagus like this
Some of the halls had elaborate decorations such as these adorning the curved cielings.
Taking a close look though, almost ubelievably, these are painted to appear 3 dimensional, the surface is perfectly smooth. These guys who painted these are masters.
After passing, or, getting shoved through, the great hall of Roman artwork, we entered a hall of tapestries, which was quite impressive.
These tapestries, as this picture shows, were huge. The smallest was probably 15 x 15, the largest had to be 50 or 60 feet on it’s longest dimension. And these were woven
After the tapestries, we entered a hall of maps.
This was meant to be a center of information regarding the territories governed by the Pope that he could peruse down as sort of a giant reference hall. Pretty impressive. In this case, the ceiling was actually adorned with sculptures, and not just painted to look 3D. The elaborate nature of it struck everyone with awe.
I resolve to have a similar hall of maps to appreciate my empire with
The paintings though not geographically accurate were represenationally accurate
More of the incredible Ceiling in the hall of maps
This map, labeled ETRvRIA was a region of northern italia where the Etruscan’s, predecessors to the Roman’s, hailed from.
Some fantastic artwork adorning an entrance.
A damn cool hall way. I don’t feel important enough to walk such a hallway.
These long building gracing the sides of the courtyard housed the halls of maps, tapestries, and roman artwork.
After the halls, we emerged into an outside area impressive of it’s own right.
I think this was the courtyard we emerged into
Through the arch, looking up, heading outside
Emerging into St. Peter’s square
We take a quick right, avoiding the square and staying under a large elaborate portico
The important people’s door
Look at those capitals, how long does it take to carve something like that?
We swing out of the portico into the square to get in a line. The portico was the entrance to St. Peters Basilica so we’re getting ready to enter. In this shot, the renaissance architecture of the lower building is captivating, along with the elaborate statues adorning it’s top. Our tour guide tells us the rustic 2 story-ish building at an oblique angle to the sandstone colored lower one is the home of the Pope, and the window at the far right is the one he emerges from to wave at the people.
Googling the “Pope’s Window” I think it was one building off. These two pictures give a good idea of the building the window is a part of.
And this image you can see both windows in the same view. That building was hidden behind this one from this perspective, but probably just barely, so perhaps from the tour guide’s point of view the ‘Pope’s Window’ was visible.
The other side of the courtyard, while we are still in line
Turning around the façade to St. Peter’s Basilica utterly overwhelms you
That was all we got to see of the facade for now, we turned and headed toward the door, we are about to enter.
The design beliegh’s the scale. Look at the size of the people near the columns to be reminded of it
Me in the basilica (front lower left)
A little history and architecture. As Christianity rose to dominance in the Roman Empire, the empire split into an east and west region. For various reasons which have been debated for centuries, from a change in the philosophical attitude of the people due to Christianity to weather changes, the western Roman empire fell, while the east remained with it’s capital at Constantinople for some centuries before it too fell. Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of Rome and made Constantinople the center of the eastern roman empire, and commenced construction of Byzantium Basilicas to replace the Roman Temples of the pagan days. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is the oldest and greatest of these Byzantium Basilicas.
Byzantian Basilicas were typically Greek crosses (a plus sign, not a t) and were characterized in the Roman era by Roman arches, large domes at the crossing and mosaic or fresco artwork. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of medieval Christendom, the Basilica gave way to the Cathedral, characterized by gothic arches (tall pointed arches) the Latin cross, stained glass instead of mosaics and frescos, and spires as bell towers, often asymmetric, at the entrance (think of Notre Dame).
Lacking the cement and mortar the Romans had, gothic cathedrals had to be self supporting and self stabilizing, making domes much harder to construct. The dome of the cross gave way to the height of the spires and the flying buttresses used to provide a counter force to the arches on arches used to achieve the incredible heights of cathedrals. The floor plan of the basic basilica was an even legged Greek cross, with St. Peters basilica, we saw an architectural revival of the Basilica (this was, after all, centuries after the height of gothic cathedral architecture) with the dome getting revived as the crown of the cross but retaining the Latin cross. This renaissance and reformation embroiled era of Christianity sought to distinguish itself from the Gothic era by, in part, reviving the basilica and dome.
I think to fully appreciate these pictures of St. Peter’s, it’s useful to know the structure and layout, to get a full sense of the monumental nature of the work. The earliest plan for the new Basilica was proposed by Bramante, and was a standard Greek Cross
St. Peters was a venerated site with a vast sacred earky Christian basilica built originally by Emperor Constantine. But by the renaisance era it was crumbling and in disarray, famously during once mass a wall crumbled and killed dozens of people. The Pope felt it was time to tear the old church down and build a better one.
Here is the first famous design of the new Basilica, by the famous artist Bramante. Though a great artist, he was a terrible engineer. The thin walls could never support the dome intended.
The famous renaissance artist Rapheal took Bramante’s plan and changed it to a latin cross, but seemed to have cluttered it with numourous colums and pilasters.
And subsequently Michaelengo further refined the design, reverting back to the greek cross, but extended the nave and finalizing the outer walls. The plan was returned to a latin cross, but otherwise retained all of Michaelengo’s contributions, by a later architect. The new dome was started in 1506, not completed until 1626. Michaelengelo spent the last 17 years of his life as the supreme architect on the project, over 30,000 drawings governed it’s construction.
Michaelangelo’s plan, with walls now able to handle the weight of the large dome, but with the disproportionately large facade from a later architect added
In my pictures above, we stand at the base of the long leg of the cross. Some more interior pictures.
These statues are 12 – 16 feet tall
heading over to michaelengo’s la pieta
This was one of the works I was most interested to see, part of the spark of the renaissance, it raised the bar on all art and necessarily technical mastery. More than that, it’s a powerful work. But you couldn’t get anywhere near enough to it to actually appreciate it, very dissapointing.
Now were starting to walk toward the center of the cross, under the dome, but were still in the long leg of it.
A view I liked
Now we start to reach the dome, looking up.
It’s impossible for your mind to wrap around the sheer scale of this structure, it never looks as big as it actually is. Obviously pictures do it little justice, but even being there it was like one grand optical illusion. I don’t think we evolved with the ability to conceptualize scales like this, since we rarely would come across them, and most important to our survival would be scales around our own immediate size.
Here is a shot with the incredibly elaborate Altar that the Pope occupies
I wish I had done a little bit of video here, just of walking, so you could see the parallax shift (or lack there of) that helps give the sense of scale.
Closeup of the alter
More of the Dome, I’m still staring up, captivated
looking down the cross toward the apse
Elaborate work at the end of the apse
One of my favorite shots
Another one like it
This wide angle panoramic shot hosted on wikipedia is worth a look, though it takes some time to download, it helps capture the elaborate beauty and scale of the interior
Ok, just to try to appreciate the scale of this structure, take a close look at this picture
Zooming in, you can actually see the people on the balcony in the dome.
Those letters surrounding the dome must be 12′ tall, the large round paintings in the pendantives must be 50 or 60 feet in diameter!
The overall dimensions of the basilica are 730 feet long, 500 feet wide, and 452 feet tall. The dome of the Basilica is indeed the tallest dome in the world, and as famously called, the greatest dome in all of christendom! 452 feet tall is roughly 45 stories. By contrast, the Statue of liberty, INCLUDING its base, is 305 feet tall, and could indeed stand, on it’s pedestal, INSIDE the dome. I would say this dome and the original façade of the basilica are properly considered to be the culmination of Michelangelo’s architectural genius.
Though not known as much for his architecture and engineering as he was for sculpting and painting, Michaelangelo’s Architecture has had a much more direct influence on all architecture since than his sculpture has for artist.
Here is a plan shaded view of the dome with standard 10’ stories present for reference. Again, the scale of this structure is tremendous and completely escapes grasping it in these pictures, and pretty much even while you are there inside it.
The World Trade Center, at 110 Stories, was a little more than twice the height of St. Peters Basilica! Note that this dome was completed in 1626. One of the reasons that it is so difficult to ascertain scale on these structures was the common renaissance practice to make things look, intentionally, like fewer stories than they actually were. From the horizontal articulation and window plans, one might guess from a quick glance that the Basilica is about 6 stories tall, since we assume a window equals one story. But each of the windows in the façade of the basilica alone are probably 6 stories tall!
If you were to actually articulate the external walls with conventional window spacing, the scale is more apparent.
Finally, Me, in front of the Basilica, from the courtyard.
Well, that’s it for part 1 of day 2
Off to Italy and Greece! We met at a parking lot in Mystic, jumped on a bus and headed to JFK. We had 35 people in the group, from high schoolers to retirees. The trip and boarding was uneventful. I spent a good amount of time getting to know others in the group as we had a few hours before take off at JFK. After a 7 hour flight over the Atlantic, were almost there! Just after departing at the layover in Frankfurt. With Lufthansa, I was expecting one of the new EU Airbus’s, but this was a Boeing 747. On our way to Rome, we passed over the Alps and the Appenine Ridge. I love passing mountain ranges from jet flights, but pictures never do it justice. About to Land in Rome! I was a little confused, I must have been on the wrong side of the plane, because this didn’t look like a big city at all. Turns out we landed about an hour outside of Rome in some beautiful Italian country side. We checked into our hotel, on the outskirts of the city. I was roomed with the father of one of the younger women on the trip, and not the person I was worried about rooming with. My friend from Illianos revealed to me I was originally roomed with him, and she’s been on the trips before and insisted to the organizer to not condemn me to that, knowing what this guy was like. Stories of him walking around in his underwear and toothpaste covered bathroom walls were floated about. I thanked her profusely! confessed my undying gratitude, and told her I’d buy her a drink at every meal. I knew none of the stories, just had the feeling he was those guys you know is going to be weird. Very nice guy, but definately weird. Decent view from our hotel room, but the Hotel was not at all impressive. As our tour host joked, it was a four star hotel but two of it’s stars were out. Apparently the EF Tours usually come up with much better stays. Floors 1 - 5 were electronic and accessible by elevators, floor 6 was stair access only and had old fashioned manual key locks. You were given one key per room, and asked to drop it off at the desk each time you left. We unpacked, relaxed for a bit, changed, showered, the all met for dinner. Here are some Random shots in Rome. After dinner, we made our way to the famous Spanish Steps, a popular meeting place in Rome which had a spectacular Ambience. I think if I lived here, I’d hang out here frequently. At the top was an old Egyptian obelisk From the very top, you could see the lighted dome of St. Peters Basilica, probably about 4 miles away. Looking down the steps to the street and fountain Me at the steps The fountain at the base was beautiful, the public fountains in Italy all have continuously fed clean water and are allegedly drinkable, though none of us tested the claim. We walked on, I found it odd there was an American Federal style building deep in Rome. This style was popular with the rise of American Federalism after the Revolutionary war, where American style was trying to distance itself from colonial and classical revival. And another one, attractively lit Walking the streets of Rome we came across a random church that was quite intriguing. Then it was one to the famous Trevi Fountain. Rounding a corner, the elaborate façade comes into view. Me in front of the Trevi Fountain. Closer detail of the elaborate marble carvings I liked this view And this one A close up of the center of the fountain This church sat behind the Trevi Fountain The elaborate Corinthian capitals were impressive A close up The front of the church was gated, and had all these small locks on it. I asked the Tour guide what the deal with that was. Lovers, he said, would come and put the locks on the gate together, supposedly their love would last forever, or as long as the lock remained. He said periodically the city comes and cuts them all off. So much for symbolism. We all enjoyed some Gelatio (Ice Cream) at the fountain. Seeking out Gelatio became a popular sport during our stay in Italy. A Random statue at the corner of a random building I spied an ancient looking temple façade down a side street, turns out we’d see it later though. We headed to a random church on reports about the interior of it from someone in the group Note the size of the pedestrians about to enter The inside was indeed incredible There was a service going on, so we quietly looked around. The pictures don’t do it justice. That’s a small choir all the way at the end, to help give a sense of scale. The walls are elaborate marble columns supporting giant Roman arches and the whole ceiling was elaborately painted. This was a random ‘small’ church in Rome, and was impressive and awe inspiring. Throughout the trip, these churches would inspire mixed emotions in me. While their technical skill and achievement is amazing and worthy of worship on their own, like a skilled artist choosing a bad theme, what they were made in the name of, and how the resources were acquired to make them, bothered me as much as the admiration of achievements required to make them inspired reverence in me. Off to the side was this interesting model. Someone asked at another church if this model represented something that someone wanted to actually build. I doubt it, given the sheer scale of it, but the tour guide said it was.
That dome would have exceeded by 10 fold anything built up until then, and probably exceeded anything ever built. The temples surrounding the outside looked to be replicas of existing famous temples. If these are to scale, the size of this structure would be almost beyond comprehension. Off to the side was this incredible structure And this one beside it A closer look reveals amazing sculptures Next to those, another just as impressive We quietly left the church, and a few blocks later was the Roman Pantheon!!! The sheer scale of it is hard to capture. Here I am standing in front of it The columns alone are a good 5 stories tall, and made of single pieces of granite. Probably 8 feet in diameter at the base. How the Romans even moved these, let alone put them into a standing position without breaking them is perplexing. I’m not sure what the inscription reads, but the Pantheon was built on top of the ruins of a previous temple to a Roman general, called Agrippa, so it looks to be something in honor of that. It was closed at night, but we would be returning the next day, and the inside was far more amazing. Next we passed the same ancient temple façade that was visible earlier. A few blocks away, we visited Hadrean’s Column. Built in the first century AD, by the famed Roman architect Appollodorus. After that, it was back to the metro and about a half hour ride and half hour walk to the hotel Some thoughts on Rome and Italy. One thing that immediately jumped out was the vast prevalence of motorcyclists and scooters. Lane splitting was almost a requirement, quiet a contrast to the states where only California allows lane splitting. Scooters and bikes could go and park pretty much anywhere they could fit. This area of Italy, at least, must have 10 or 20 times the motorcycle ridership that the states had. The weather and narrow roads surely is partly responsible for that, the terrain was full of small hills and charming alluring twisty roads, but the absurdly high gas prices was no doubt the primary reason. Geologically most of the land and stone outcroppings were a light sandstone, and the houses all had dark red terracotta roofs, contrasted with the lush green of the landscape they all made for a rich and very different landscape.
Widowed and alone, suffering the grief of losing four of his six children and his wife, the great American mind Thomas Jefferson fell in love with the married and devout catholic Maria Cosway in France. They spent a month together picnicking and traveling the French country side. When she left, Jefferson was devastated. He wrote a dialog attempting to make sense of it.
Madam seated by my fireside solitary and sad, the following dialog took place between my head and my heart.
Head – well friend, you seem to be in a pretty trim
Heart – I am indeed the most wretched of all earthly beings, overwhelmed by grief
Head – This is one of the scrapes for which you are ever leading us, you must learn to look forward before taking a step which may interest our peace
Heart – let the gloomy monk sequestered from the world seek un-social pleasures in the bottom of his cell, had they ever felt the solid pleasure of one generous spasm of the heart, they would exchange for it all the frigid speculations of their lives
Head – do not bite at the bait of pleasure until you know there is no hook beneath it, the art of life is the art of avoiding pain
Heart – leave me to decide when friends are to be contracted, we have no rose without it’s thorn, no pleasure without allyHead - those which depend on ourselves are the only pleasures which a wise man may count on, for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of
"300" Is One of The Greatest Films Ever Made
Frank Miller’s interpretation of the tale of 300 lone Spartan warriors fending off hordes of Persian invaders is hands down one the best films ever made. Though 300 takes some artistic license and contains historical inaccuracies, the purpose of good art is not to teach history but to convey important ideals and themes. 300 is unabashed in its representation of the highest ideals of man, of clear cut good and evil, of right and wrong, and of a heroic defense, to the death, of freedom, justice, and reason. The movie invokes and justifies feelings of empowerment and a renews your idealism, giving you the moral and spiritual fuel for your struggles for the good life by witnessing one of the most spirited defenses of ideals humans have ever accomplished.
Should a sculptor capture the scar on a man’s body or a painter a cold sore on a woman’s mouth? Are these encouragements of humility, professing that mankind is flawed? Or are these dishonest concretizations of temporary flaws into a permanent representation of reality? A beautiful Hellenistic sculpture glorifies all the highest ideals of man; honor, pride, intellect, integrity, and beauty. The broken, disembodied, disheveled forms of modern art are anti-intellectualism, de-humanization, the destruction of ideals and values, brought into permanent physical form.
Art, according to Aristotle, is in it’s best form a representation of man as he ought to be, not as he is. Art, according to Ayn Rand, is the selective concretization of abstractions of the highest ideals of the artist. When someone chooses to capture something, especially an idea or principle, in a permanent form of representation, they are left with the options of how they wish to capture it, and what language they wish to convey the idea in. A modern artist might try to represent a complex idea in an abstract and objectively rational form but when the manifestation in physical form of an idea becomes so disassociated from any rational means to interpret it, it is indifferent from useless Rorschach ink blot tests and is much more an indication of the irrational nature of the thought of the artists, the subjective psychological biases of the viewer (as the French paper Le Monde demonstrated in it’s review of the film "Hostel" when it ranked it as the best American film of that year because they somehow interpreted it as a commentary on American Imperialism, instead of the violent pornographic sadism that it really was) and a thinly veiled abdication of any objective standard in art, than it is an idealized concretization of metaphysical value judgments. Is a spattering of incoherent paint drops on a wall, like any Jackson Pollack painting to be considered "art"? Is a novel of incoherent prose "art", Is a movie with no logical progression, consistency, or plot, like "Lost Highway" art? Is a novel encompassing an entire day of nothing like James Joyce’s "Ulysses" art? These things, lacking barely any objective distinction from randomness, or being glorifications of nothingness, are not art, even though they may hang on walls or have leather bindings, to consider these art, is to take any useful distinguishing character of art away from the word and idea. Readers may disagree on what Aristotle and Ayn Rand considered Art to be, but any definition if held consistently which includes meaningless intellectual vomit indistinguishable from randomness, does indeed renders the concept of art without value.
The proper form of art in a philosophy based on reason, reality, and life as an ethical standard is one that encourages a life based on reason, which can be tangibly connected in a meaningful manner to the reality of the witness to the art, and which advocates and promulgates a ethical system which holds life as it’s standard. Such art must be objectively understandable, but the setting, context, historical accuracy, etc are completely irrelevant to the conveyance of the message. Art is a selective recreation of elements which pertain in and understandable manner to the issues we deal with in reality, based, as Rand, suggested on the artist’s metaphysical value judgments. Art is not a literal recreation of reality (cold sores, bunions, societal flaws and all) but instead is a recreation of the critical elements of reality required for conceptual conveying a message or theme.
Consider then, what great art is, and understand that "300" is probably the greatest concretization of human ideals in visual media ever created. "300" is not a historical documentary and contains technical inaccuracies from the way the Spartan’s fought to the nature and makeup of Spartan society. But if you want a documentary, turn to the History Channel. This movie is absolutely NOT a historical documentary and to dislike it because it is not historically accurate is to assert that all art must be nothing more than accurate retelling of historical accounts. Yet we do not belittle the great works of Shakespeare because they contain linguistic anachronisms or the great epics of Ancient Greece because they contained gods and monsters. "300" is a moral epic told against a historical backdrop, containing real historical figures but representing them as profound human beings we can all look up to and admire, in situations and stories indeed conceptually similar to the factual historical reality. Stories that serve to inspire and encourage us to weather difficult storms, persevere against obstacles blocking our goals, and continue to fight; not because we might win and not because it is our duty, but because it is being true to our own ideals in defense of our deepest values, that these are things ought to do because it is right.
In classical Greek fashion, Frank Miller was not presenting Sparta (and man) as he is or was, but as he *ought* to be; physically perfect, morally absolute, passionate and intelligent, emotive and rational. When facing the Persian emissaries, King Leonidas does not call for negotiations and capitulations, he does not negotiate with his would be murderers, he kicks them into a well. When debating what to do against the coming Persian onslaught, Leonides abandons the advice of the corrupt mystics and gathers a volunteer force to face the Persian hordes. When faced with the corrupting offer of riches and rule over the entire Hellenistic empire, Leonides, facing certain death, declines, opting to fight in defense of his ideals instead of giving up what he values most to perpetuate his mere mechanical existence, a life which would then be of self torture as demonstrated when he condemns the Spartan Ephialtas who betrayed Leonidas and the 300 to the Persians to “a very long life". Facing absolute certain death, Leonidas and his mean nevertheless stay on and fight, knowing that delaying the Persians at Thermopylae would allow time for the rest of the Spartan army to join with other Greek city states and ultimately repel the Persian invasion - a battle which some historians rank as the most important battle in all of history.
"300" also un-apologetically and flagrantly disregards the false dichotomy between reason and passion. King Leonidas is no barbarian robot, but a passionate lover to his wife, and passionate fighter for justice. He respects and cherishes his wife, who is as morally strong as he, and he fights and dies for her freedom, not wishing to see her condemned to a life of slavery, while she fights to save his life.
When ordered not to fight by the superstitious religious elders, Leonidas disregards their feelings and edicts and mounts a strategic defense of a critical area of Greece, ultimately saving every thing and everyone he values. The coming of this movie reminds me of the context of Star Wars in the late 70’s. Where movies had disco sound tracks and nihilistic themes, coming out of the 70’s Vietnam protest and moral relativism era, Star Wars came along to tell an inspirational and uplifting grand heroic moral epic with a classical and powerfully emotive sound track. Today in our sea of moral relativism and ‘flawed’ heroes (consider the plethora of movies that actually glorify villains, like ‘Natural Born Killers’, mock heroes, like "True Lies" and "Die Hard", or celebrate violent death and torture, like "Saw" and "Hostel" ) "300" comes along to tell a powerful inspiring tale of moral absolutism and heroism. I can not recall the last time I heard people cheer at a movie, and it wasn’t just the style of the movie, it’s the message as well, presented in a good style, that resonates strongly with people. I for one find myself filled with a little more hope for America since a movie like this did so well in the box office. This movie appeals to our innermost capacity for idealism and invokes feelings of empowerment and justifies them. It brings us moral and spiritual fuel for the struggles for a good life we undertake.
Because of all these virtues, "300" has caused quite the firestorms of criticism. Most of them center around the historical inaccuracies in the film, focusing on petty details, such as the armor the Spartans wore and the methods they used to fight, while ignoring glaringly obvious historical inaccuracies, like Xerxes being 14′ tall and having a henchman with bone saw arms, neither of which had any remotely possible intention of being interpreted as a historical accuracy. These critics ignore these things and focus on petty details in an attempt to undermine the moral tale of the story. Yet nobody cries that Homer’s "Iliad" is a historical falsehood, because it is not meant to be a documentary, it is meant to represent the highest ideals of ancient Greek civilization. Nobody attacks Shakespeare for his inaccuracies in Julius Ceaser, nobody derides "Beowulf" because Grendel was not real. Nobody attempts to argue that Dante’s "The Inferno" is worthless because the hero travels into the fictional Hades. The great works of literature last not because they are historically accurate, they rarely if ever are, but usually because they convey great human moral truths in a powerful story and in a manner which people can objectively connect with. Likewise “300" is not a documentary, so critics attacking it’s historical inaccuracies (especially in a time where historical accuracies are difficult to ascertain anyway) are simply trying to make a name for themselves by attacking something better than they are ever capable of.
Many other criticism lay around attacks on the Spartan way of life in general. Critics will say that the real Spartans were mystical and collectivist. They might ask, why not play this movie in Nazi Germany and see all the Storm Troopers yell in delight with the same reaction and inspired Americans do? (Obfuscating of course the ideals which invoke the reaction with the physical reactions themselves, as if rallying in the name of freedom is the same things as rallying in the name of murderous tyranny merely because in both cases one is ‘rallying’) Sparta, they will say, had slavery, was a heavily collectivist society, treated it’s women poorly, etc. In all these cases they completely ignore the context surrounding Sparta and the context of the Ancient world. It was a world where EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING WHO EXISTED was a slave, and where most societies did not even have a WORD for Freedom. Only the world of Ancient Greece even had a word for freedom (eluethera) to differentiate a kind of existence from slavery, and had portions of their populations, large or small, identified as free men. Every Ancient Civilization had slavery, ONLY ANCIENT GREECE had freedom, and yes even Sparta had free men. Only Ancient Greece had the idea of Freedom and the ability for men to achieve it.
They might argue that one could represent the heroic soldiers of Nazi Germany in the same manner. But heroism in the name of murderous ideals is merely savage brutality, Nazism advocated forced nationalist servitude in a time where half the world had decent (though flawed) systems which were based on freedom, where every culture had the concept and words for Freedom, and Nazi Germany actively crushed this. The context of Nazi Germany was totalitarianism rising in a sea of Freedom and Liberal Democracy. Nazism was a step backward in a world of freedom, Spartan and Greek civilizations were a step forward in a world of totalitarian enslavement. This film emphasized the only bastion of freedom in an entire world of slavery, indeed, they were the first steps forward toward Freedom in a march which still continues to this day. If you were to make a movie glorifying extreme nationalism and dictatorial rule, Nazi Germany is an optimal setting because it contrasts the concept of freedom embraced by much of the world, if you are making a movie defending and glorifying freedom and reason, Ancient Greece is an excellent setting as it contrasts the prevalence of slavery and tyranny which dominated every other ancient civilization.
The very concept of "freedom" had to originate somewhere for it to develop into it’s modern form. Yes Sparta also had slaves, no not all Spartans were free. But let us not forget that women in the US did not get the right to vote until the 20’s and black men until after the civil war. Give the ancient Hellenes a break as the rest of the world would not even match their limited gains toward freedom for nearly 2,000 years. Would we chide a movie about the bravery of Union soldiers in the American Civil War by saying "well women couldn’t vote"? No, every salient step toward freedom should be celebrated, and the Ancient Greek city states steps took the first and most important steps in that direction, and at the battle of Thermopylae and in the greater context of the Persian wars, would come face to face with the greatest threat that ideal would ever encounter in a victory whose repercussions resonate throughout the world for thousands of years.
My only major complaint with 300 was that the Spartan 300 did not in fact stay and fight out of duty, as was depicted in the film, but in fact stayed and fought, even knowing it would bring their deaths, to give their land the vital time necessary to collect an army to defend the city states of Greece. Though this is a historical inaccuracy, I cite it because the accurate story was thematically much more powerful. Leonidas appealed to the Spartan honor code of never surrendering in the movie, yet it was in fact this very event which founded the Spartan tradition of never surrendering.
Also, as Leonidas left his wife for the final time, the narration insisted that the Spartan code did not allow the expression of love or regret at this moment, as it would have been a sign of ‘weakness’. This, to me, deviated from the intense passion and love of values that Leonidas showed at all other times with his wife and the Spartans embraced. A minor complaint, but it was out of place with the character the Miller had established with Leonidas.
Additionally, Frank Miller appears to feel that true heroism is sacrificing ones life in the name of a higher ideal. Sacrificing ones own life for a higher ideal, for something that is more important to someone than their life, is noble and just, but only when it is the last and necessary course of action. Fighting for ones highest ideals, perpetually and indefinitely through the whole course of one’s life, is far more difficult and far more admirable. Dying in the name of a cause, many people think, is the highest and most noble sacrifice, but in reality it is a fleeting moment and temporary decision made permanent, Living for a cause and fighting perpetually for it is far more noble, far more difficult, and far more rational.
This film is not about the Greeks versus the Persians, nor is it a historical docudrama, these are only the setting where a theme is played out. Good stories transcend the backdrop they are performed on and speak to people of all eras because they speak to an important ideal. The theme of this movie, the message it was conveying, the ideals it’s characters were embracing and fighting for, was not in defense of mysticism and slavery, but was in defense of individuals fighting to their last breath for their highest ideals, but not just any ideals, specifically the ideals of reason and freedom. The theme is of these brave men (brave because courage in the name of evil ideals is not courage, but savagery) fighting against the brutal enslavement of them and the people they care for at the hands of a murderous tyrant.
Like great historical fictional figures of Antigone and Hector, like the true to life historical figures of Cicero and Cato, and Raul Wallenberg of the modern era, and countless others who refused to capitulate and turn in their loved ones or loved way of life and died because of it at the hands of murderous thugs, the theme is of these valiant people standing up for and defending what they know is right and just in the face of the most brutal forms of oppression and savagery. It is a theme not only of moral courage but also of perseverance and overwhelming tenacity, of struggling through the most tremendous odds for what you know to be right, even if you face death along the way.
For the purpose of life is not to perpetuate the mere mechanical structure of our existence, it is to perpetuate not just life but a particular kind of life, an Aristotealan Eudaimonic life, a life of productive and intellectual growth, a life of goals and challenges, a vibrant life of learning and experiencing new ideas, new cultures, a life where your highest values, the health and well being of yourself and your loved ones and the growth you pursue, are passionately identified and defended at all costs, and are never surrendered and never abandoned. Where your passion and your goals drive your life and your friends and lovers are fellow travelers in your journey.
When you struggle at pursuing your goals and values, think of Leonidas and the brave 300, fighting for days on end through piles of bodies, the Persian hordes in front of them and their wives and children in the cities behind them. Know you have it in you to push yourself that much harder in pursuit of your goals and ideals. But be sure your goals are sound and ideals are good, fancy clothes and big houses do not necessarily make a good life, and pursuit of the irrational may actually damage the things you do value. When you are exhausted and battered, think of the 300 Spartans facing millions of Persians, fighting for freedom and justice and reason, think of their courage and tenacity and find strength in yourself that they as fellow humans found and that you know you have in you. Always fight for your ideals and the things you value in homage to Leonidas and the 300 and your own highest potential. This is one of the greatest movies ever made, see it, enjoy it, feel it, love it.
A little bit of etymology
The first line of Homer’s Iliad reads "Sing Muse of the Wrath of Achilles" The ancient Greeks had nine muses, and these muses were thought to serve as the inspiration for thought or skilled practice, and so Homer was appealing to the muses to inspire him to write of Achilles. What is someone doing when they "muse" Muse is a Greek word, and it means you are thinking about something. In Greek, the prefix "a" means ‘not’ or ‘without’ as in an "a-theist", which is someone who is without theism. Thus, "a-muse" means without thinking, an adequate description of laughing, joyful, "amusing" behavior. Ancient Greeks used the word mouseion to refer to a place or temple dedicated to the Muses, thus today a "Museum" then is a place of the products of thought or inspiration. "Music" holds the same origin in the word muse, but since antiquity has narrowed the idea of directed thought or inspiration to only one arena, that of sound.
They pretend an object is not what it really is.
In the hopes it will not be that which it always is.
Imagination, it seems to them, is meant to be absurd.
They use a gun instead of reason to make their voices heard.
They won’t come to ever see how their morals shape reality, the only end they care to see is violent: forced equality.
They pretend your mind is something that belongs to them.
It’s only meant to serve all those whose needs are still not met.
Self-destruction is, to them, a means that serves an end.
Self sacrifice and immolation make the best of men.
They won’t come to ever see starvation comes from equity, if equal men are made by force, they turn the best into the worst.
They pretend that you’ll provide under the yoke of force.
Their need the right to claim all you have made and force out more.
They pretend that they won’t starve without a working mind.
And they wont see where they end up is where they wished to find.
They won’t come to ever see their morals shape reality, the only end they care to see is violent: forced equality
– Thosquanta lyrics
In the late 50’s as Chairman Mao Ze Dong solidified power in "Revolutionary China" he sought to increase the standing of China on the international scene. To do this, China had to sell it’s primary domestic product; food. Of course in China most people producing food consumed the food they were producing. The communist party of China issued new orders and directives, every bit of food produced by the population would be ‘given’ to the government, who would then re-distribute it according to who needed it, or rather, according to what would benefit the oppressive rulers the most. Mao’s ruling part of China began a campaign to become one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters. Farmers were forced to hand over at gun point the food they were growing while they were starving. Where they were producing more than enough food for themselves and others, now there was not even enough food to feed the population of China. People were literally working themselves to death growing and collecting their own food, and being forced to give it away. Millions and millions of people starved to death. In all, historians estimate, about 35 million Chinese peasants starved to death during this period in the absolute worst human famine to have ever occurred, yet few today know about it.
This famine was not cause by droughts or freezes, but instead by a controlled economy in the hands of a murderous dictator, in fact all of the famines experienced in the 20th century were at the hands of controlled economies
Additionally Communist party members were fans of an "alternative" science, brought about by philosophical Dialectical materialism, which asserts all growth comes from conflict, among other bad ideas, and also abandons the mechanism of heredity, genetics, in favor of a deadly Marxist pseudoscience, Lysenkoism. Lysenko and his poor science caused the famines in the Soviet Union which killed tens of millions of people, and many of these policies, despite these spectacular failures, were adopted in China promulgating Mao’s famine. Later, when adopted in Cambodia, Ethiopio, and North Korea, all produced still more man-made famines. The lysenko ideas including ‘conditioning’ seeds to grow in cold weather by dunking them in cold water, forcing peasants to bury seedlings much deeper, and forcing peasants to cover fields with 5 times as many seeds as a field could support, on the theory that similar plants do not compete with each other for resources.
You can read more on these dreadful policies here
Beyond that, Communist party members sought to make China a world player on the industrial scene in the world and desired to capitalize on their greatest resource; manpower from physical labor. Tens of millions of farmers and peasants were ordered to leave their productive farms and build small communal "steel refractories" these refractories resembled termite mounds more than steel production furnaces and produced steel that looked more like animal droppings earning it a nickname in kind.
The single major change which ended this dreadful famine was when farmers were again allowed to produce food as they saw fit, and while they still had to provide a large quota to the government, they were allowed to keep any excess they grew and sell it. Within 5 years agricultural output in China, from 1960 – 1965, almost tripled. Production continued to climb until Chairman Mao regained much of the power he lost and instituted a "cultural revolution" where anyone eductated in the ways of the west was executed, again agriculture production plummeted as the people responsible for the radical increase were sent to prison camps or outright executed as "counter revolutionaries" Millions of educated Chinese fled the country, and chances are if you are in a western country and have some Chinese friends, their parents most likely fled the cultural revolution.
Read more here is as well
Many people in western nations have a hard time believing such statistics, assuming by de-facto that governments tend to operate well and for the benefit of the people. But government encroachment into markets does not bring about equality, increased standards of living, or a general betterment of society, it always plummets toward ineptitude, corruption, and inefficiencies. . No bureaucrat can ever respond quickly enough to rapidly changing climate and markets to get the food where it is needed, only the independent and rapid decisions of the millions of producers and distributors are capable of adjusting with lighting rapidity to great strains on products. Any politician who controls immense swaths of the economy is immediately open to corruption, where the currency de jour is not product superiority but instead influence and bribery. To the extent at which governments interfere in markets is the extent to which people in those nations suffer harder, shorter, more painful lives, and to the extent to which nations let free people make free decisions and produce the goods they desire of their own accord, and trade with each other of their own free will, is the extent to which a nation and it’s people prosper and live longer, healthier, happier lives as a whole.
In one of Richard Feynman’s books, (one of my favorite authors, Nobel prize winning physicist, and amazingly prescient person) he recalls visiting a museum in Greece with his wife, and while browsing through the great works of art, fine statues, and beautiful Urns, he came across a stunningly complex device. Fascinated, he asked more about it. It was so complex that he thought it might have been a fake. The Museum curator, scoffing at the American finding fascination in the machine but not in the statues, could find only three published articles on the device, all from Scientific American, and all from Americans. It was found in a ship wreck, and physically appeared to be the age it was. The point of Feynman’s story was as much about the fascinating device as it was the modern Greek Culture, which practices a modern form of ancestor worship and reverence, frequently deriving self worth from the accomplishments of long dead ancestors. The common attitude, Feynman thought, seems to be that if the ancient Greeks didn’t come up with it, it wasn’t worth coming up with, and everything come up since then is hardly more than gadgets and distractions. I made a mental note when I read Feynman’s book to look into that device further, fascinated with ancient technology as I am.
Recently the New York Times science section ran this article “An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists” (Registration required) After reading the name of the device I thought that’s a very Greek sounding word and that perhaps this is the device that Richard Feynman was talking about. Indeed it was the same device, and Feynman’s marveling at it’s complexity is yet another magnificent example of his prescience. The device, A complex geared clock looking mechanism, appears to have been used to calculate lunar cycles and planetary phases. As this article details, the device has now been examined with the latest high-resolution imaging systems. The team examining it, made up of British, Greek, and American researches were able to decipher many of the inscriptions and reconstruct the gear functions, revealing “an unexpected degree of technical sophistication for the period” In fact it is a degree of technical sophistication not rivaled for over 1,000 years. The Antikythera Mechanism is considered the worlds first computer and was probably not matched in complexity until some of the devices of the Islamic scientists of around 1000 AD.
Around the time this device was constructed, another Greek scientist invented the first rudimentary steam engine. Capable of such miraculously complex dvices, the Greeks themselves were not rivaled in science for over 1,000 years and in philosophy I would argue for perhaps another 2,000 years.
Enigma of Ancient computer http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/889
Image of the Device and artists rendition
The Antikythera Mechanism Links http://www.giant.net.au/users/rupert/kythera/kythera6.html
An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/29/science/30computecnd.html?ex=1322456400
Today, December 8th, is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He was shot and killed on December 8th, 1980. It’s too bad for 4.5 million Vietnamese people that he wasn’t killed about 10 years earlier. Shocking and offensive? Yes. True? Yes. No I don’t hate John Lennon because he ‘broke up the beetles’ (couldn’t care less) some of his music I enjoy and some I very much dislike (Imagine is hardly more than a catchy communist manifesto) but what I really dislike about John Lennon was that he helped to end the US Involvement in Vietnam, not only helped but played a significant role in that, and subsequently changed the political tide in the US to one of abandonment. The 80 million people of Vietnam were left to rot and to be enslaved by the Soviet backed communists of Vietnam, who ended up killing 2 million people and then moved on to Cambodia to commit the single worst genocide as a percentage of population the world has ever seen, taking millions of more lives. Neighboring Laos fell to communism and remains communist to this day. Vietnam is still an oppressive communist hell hole today, and is ranked by Freedom House as one of the ten most oppressive nations on the planet.
The Vietnam war helped to contain the global spread of communism. At the height of the Vietnam war more than half of the Soviet Unions global foreign aide was funneled into Vietnam. The Vietnam war delayed the spread of communism into many other nations around China, and drove a major wedge between Chinese communism and Soviet Communism, which remained until the collapse of the Soviet union. The Vietnam war was not a war of expansionism or for tin or rubber, it was a war of the US and the Soviet Union fought in Vietnam. The people of Vietnam were the greatest victims in all of it, and the efforts of the United States, though often flawed and even sometimes flagrantly immoral, were to secure the people of South Vietnam from invasion by the soviet backed north. It was a war in defense of self determination and freedom.
Was Lennon rallying for their cause? Did he, like sadly few other prominent Vietnam war protestors, latter change his mind and try to rally humanitarian support for Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia? Did he care to follow, as the years dragged on, what actually happened to Vietnam? Did he care at all? Or did he, like most people, just bury his head in the sand, convince himself nothing bad would happen, and give himself a big ol pat on his back for his moral fortitude?
While the opposition to the draft was absolutely justified, it dominated only the early protests. In the larger geopolitical context of the era, that of containing the spread of soviet communism, the Vietnam war was a justified war and was in our self interest. It is interesting to note that Nixon DID declare peace and end the war, and Kissinger and one of the generals of the North Vietnamese army received the Nobel Peace prize. The war was OVER and WON in early 1973. Nixon did not resign until more than a year after the war was over and won.
But of course the communist north disregarded the Paris peace accords and continually attacked South Vietnam. By May of 1973 there were no combat troops left in Vietnam and South Vietnam was more than capable of defending itself against the perpetual invasions launched by the north, it only required military material aide, just as we have provided with South Korea over the past 50 years. However the democratically controlled congress soon made it illegal to provide any aide, even only military aide, in Indochina, thus condemning the South Vietnamese to slaughter and communist imprisonment. In two years the Soviet backed north defeated the globally isolated defenses of the south, and Saigon fell in April of 1975. In the 6 months following the fall of Saigon more people were killed in Vietnam than were killed in the whole of the Vietnam war. In one particular incident more than 70,000 ‘boat people’ (refugees who had fled to the south china sea) were forced to drown at sea because neighboring nations did not want to deal with refugees. Note this was more than the number of Americans killed in the entire war. The North Vietnamese communists eventually spread communism to Laos and Cambodia, the latter of which committed one of the worst genocides in the history of mankind. Laos and North Vietnam are still incredibly brutal states today.
The very vocal protests of people like Jane Fonda and John Lennon did a lot to raise public awareness of incredibly disingenuous over simplifications of a complex geo political situation, and probably directly influenced public opinion which eventually led to the callous disregard and abandonment of Vietnam. This abandonment led to the murders of nearly 4.5 million people throughout Indochina *after the war ended*. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. Where was Lennon, who allegedly cared about these people?
The opponents of the Vietnam war, after the draft was indeed, were almost entirely funded by global communist parties. At every step of the war the media perpetually reported inaccurately or with gross distortions. One infamous case was that of a South Vietnamese general executing a North Vietnamese prisoner, caught on camera. The South Vietnamese general was a close friend of the then prime minister of South Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky, who has gone record stating that the general in question was the most honest general in the army. At one point he investigated some of Ky’s own family members for suspected corruption, and given the corruption in the previous administration this was a noble undertaken. Ky admired him and historically Ky is now considered one of the best prime ministers of South Vietnam. The man executed had just killed many members of the family of a friend of the generals and this was witnessed by the general himself. Yet the newspapers still labeled him as a ‘suspect’ The journalist who took the photo, and was later awarded a Pulitzer prize for it, later stated that it was the worse photo he took in his life and he wished he never had. He knew how that incident was spun and was a major salient point in the changing of public opinion about the war in Vietnam, a public opinion strongly influenced by prominent figures of the protest community. Consider also the Hue massacre, where the North Vietnamese communists killed over 4,000 civilians on the eve of one of Vietnam’s most important holidays, burying many in a mass grave still in the celebratory clothing. This massacre ran on page 5 of the New York Times. The Mai Lai Massacre, where US Soldiers killed over 100 civilians, was splashed on the front page of every newspaper. The bias was persistent and perpetual through the course of the war and did a lot to change public opinion enough to simply abandon Vietnam..
Did Lennon have a major influence on public opinion? I don’t know, how do we quantify such a thing? I think he did have a significant influence. Even so, I hold him responsible for his own direct actions and the ideas he promulgated, without even trying to assess how successful he was at promulgating them. Whether or not an advocate of oppression and slavery gets another person to believe his non sense does not change the fact that he is spewing very harmful nonsense and as such I can morally condemn him all I want, no matter how good I might thing is songs are.
Maybe Lennon didn’t have much of an influence, but one must still hold him morally accountable for the despicable things he preached. And we need to remember that we are all to willing to believe the things we want to believe in order to think the things we want to think. Do you convince yourself that Lennon had little influence so that you still get to like him because of his music? Well that is very convenient. What I often see when expressing this sentiment is people trying to convince themselves that even though he advocated, essentially, brutal enslavement and mass murder, that well he didn’t really have any major effect so they get to still like him because he made good music. Sorry, politics trumps good music especially when the musician uses the popularity he gained from being a good musician to make himself a political figure and then preaches horrendous politics.
I admit it is extremely difficult to determine the influence that a public figure like Lennon had on the populace, but given, as example, the adulation and respect still given to him this day, even when he openly supported one of the most brutal regimes to walk on the face of this planet, it’s clear his influence was strong and long lasting. If he had been singing about Nazism in world war II, would people think so highly of him still? Why the evasion, Communism has killed 10 times as many people as Nazism did. It is no laughing matter. To look at a idealistic communist and think ‘well, he just meant well he didn’t harm anyone’ when he was a major public figure in the forefront of the protest movement which eventually turned the tide of public opinion of the Vietnam war and sentenced millions of people to slavery and death is completely intellectually dishonest.
What Lennon did was use the popularity he acquired through making good music to oppose the defense of people who desired to be free and determine the course of their own lives and to ultimately contribute, to an extent which is of course debatable, to their enslavement and murder. As a Lennon fan, you can either come to terms with the fact that a musician you like helped a murderous tyranny come into power or you can continually evade the question or simply convince yourself that he had absolutely NO political influence, which hardly seems reasonable at all. How do you KNOW what his political influence was? How do you KNOW it was next to zero, do you just FEEL IT? Do you think that all of those millions of people who loved the Beatles and liked John Lennon, every one of them, completely and utterly ignored his political commentaries and actions? If your admiration for Lennon relies on the fact that he had next to zero influence on the eventually abandonment of Indochina to communist aggression, does that mean that if it was shown beyond a reasonable doubt he did have influence, perhaps even a significant one (he certainly put a hell of a lot of effort into trying to be a significant influence) that you would reconsider your assessment of him as a person? Or perhaps reconsider his net contribution to the world? .
From Wikipedia on John Lennon [emphasis added]
"Give Peace a Chance,” recorded in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War, marked Lennon’s transformation from loveable mop-top to anti-war activist, and began a process that culminated in 1972 when the Nixon Administration sought to silence him by ordering him deported from the US. The Vietnam War mobilized a generation of young people to take a stand opposing US government policy, but few pop stars joined them – antiwar protest was something for folkies like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Lennon however was determined to use his power as a superstar to help end the war, especially after he left the Beatles and teamed up with Yoko Ono. They declared their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton in March 1969 a "bed-in for peace," winning world-wide media coverage. At a second bed-in in Montreal in June, 1969, they recorded “Give Peace a Chance” in their hotel room; the song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement, and was sung by half a million demonstrators in Washington DC at Vietnam Moratorium Day in November 1969"
"When John and Yoko moved to New York City in August 1971, they became friends with antiwar leaders Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, and planned a national concert tour to coincide with the 1972 presidential election."
Remember, too, what "peace" is in this context, it is a wanton surrender of a people that yearn to be free to a murderous Stalinistic soviet communism. Peace must not be removed from the context that surrounds it. Should we value peace over all else when a murderer comes to our home? When our wife is getting raped? The ‘Peace’ movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s was not a movement of peace, but one of absolute pacifism, and absolute pacifism does nothing but reward militant aggression. If a warlike society was bent on taking over the world, the peace movement of that era would have paved the way with their bodies. Lennon’s cries for peace during the Vietnam war were essentially cries to abandon the Vietnamese people to mass murder and enslavement, as all the politicians supporting the war warned countless times and as came to pass, just like every other time communism has come to power in a nation. Lennon’s cries for peace in this era were appeals for the people of South Vietnam to stop fighting the people and system that sought to enslave them. They did not value his ‘peace’ more than their freedom.
Well, you might say “he wrote some beautiful songs. That’s what matters to me.”
Well I am sure Hitler wrote some nice poetry and Stalin had some decent sketches he made for his grand children. I am not so willing to forgive someone for their flagrant support of brutally murderous regimes. Every single ideal of freedom, libertarianism, objectivism, would have gotten you immediately purged, smashed, hung, executed, imprisoned, and or disappeared in every single communist nation. Lennon publicly opposed fighting one of the most brutal regimes of this kind to have ever existed at the very least, and worse case scenario actually helped bring one to power. But hey, who cares, he made good music! I am sure that is wonderful consolation to the 4.5 million people murdered! Now, I am not comparing him directly to Hitler or to Stalin. I am making the point that one should not disconnect someone’s artistic or musical contributions from their political or intellectual contributions. Both are fundamental reflections of the nature of their character. I see a lot of people saying "I dont care what he did, I care that I like his music" What I am saying is, "I don’t care that his music was good, I care what he did"
It doesn’t matter how good or nice someone is in other aspects if his actions result in a terrible amount of pain and suffering. People glaze right on past Lennon’s complacency in bringing a murderous regime into power, and look only at his music. Did his music do more good for the world than his opposition of stopping a murderous regime from rising to power do harm? I don’t know, I’d ask the 4.5 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, but they are all dead now. Had Lennon made any of his music in the nations he opposed defending, he would have been imprisoned and executed.
To my comments in the post, one might say “What insensitive comments regarding Lennon’s death. Whatever his politics, he certainly wasn’t guilty of a capital offense. Show some compassion.”
I ask then, where was Lennon’s compassion for the millions of Vietnamese murdered? More than 50,000 Vietnamese peasants had been murdered *in the north* by the North Vietnamese communists *before* the Vietnam war (that is, the involvement of the US) even started. Where was his compassion for them? For their plight? For their desire for freedom? For the desire of the freedom of the people of South Vietnam? For the 500,000 boat people that died at sea, seeking their freedom. For the 3.5 million people smashed and starved to death by Pol Pot in Cambodia, who was brought to power by the North Vietnamese communists. Ironically, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was used as the trailer theme song to 1984’s “The Killing Fields” which poorly told the story of the Cambodian Genocide, a genocide which came about by a government literally attempting to abolish property.
Did John Lennon deserve his fate? Did the 4.5 million people who died in Indochina as a result of the US abandonment deserve their fates? Well, peace now reigns, even though North Vietnam is still one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet, at least they have peace! John Lennon’s callous disregard for the lives of the people of Vietnam is what is disgusting and insensitive. No one deserves a horrible death, but John Lennon, at the very least, opposed fighting a regime which wrought more horrible deaths on the world than had been seen in 50 years, and at worst helped them come to power. That you disregard all of this, that you couldn’t care less that all of these millions of people died, each of whom I am sure loved their lives as much as Lennon did his, is the essence of a callous disregard.
This is not a commentary about music, I actually really like the Beatles and many of Lennon’s songs. There are many different levels one can enjoy music on, but I also weigh the philosophical message of a song in that assessment very strongly. I feel very strongly about the tragedy that the people of Vietnam have suffered, and as such I dislike people who helped to bring that tragedy about. Lennon’s very public opposition to the Vietnam war was cruel and inappropriate, and it was based on horrible philosophical premises additionally, and I hold him accountable for his actions, no matter how good the music he made ways it can not outweigh a complacency to mass murder.
Lennon was an ideological communist or, worse, an anarcho-socialist, as such he was anti-life, anti-mind, and anti-human. No ideology in the world has been more harmful to human life than communism has been. He is not worthy of any praise, even if America’s system at the time had faults (it certainly did and still does), he was not working to correct them, but to enact an even worse system of statist slavery. He was a communist who sought to turn the world into a communist utopia. Do you value your life? He sought to own it, or at least confiscate it and grant it as property to the state. Do you own property and value the means to interact with a material world to sustain your life? He sought to take that away, and have the state give you permission to live. His music, his most famous song now, still works to spread that message.
What of the 4.5 million people who died in Indochina *AFTER* the end of the Vietnam War. What of the plight of the 2.5 million refugees and boat people, many of whom were apprehended and forcibly returned to Vietnam (one need not wonder too deeply what became of them)
We like to laugh a snicker at someone who disdains communism as much as I do, but those people laughing and snickering are never cognizant of the fact that communism has killed more than 10 times the number of people that Nazism has. Do we laugh and snicker at our vile disdain for Nazism? No, yet communism has killed over 100 million people. John Lennon was a communist, and helped the communists come to power and enslave 80 million people by undermining their last best hope for freedom and self determination.
If Lennon did have a significant influence on the ending of the US involvement in Vietnam (as 500,000 people singing “Give Peace a Chance” on the Washington Mall surely suggests) then if he had been killed 10 years earlier, before he was able to develop such a large influence, it might very well have saved over millions of lives. It is difficult to ascertain the extent of his influence, at the very least he publicly opposed defending a free people against a communist tyranny, and worse case he actually helped them come to power and brutally enslave over 100 million people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The fact that John Lennon never uttered a single word about Vietnam after the fall of Saigon is telling. He could not have actually cared for the well being of the people of Vietnam, but instead sought only to promulgate a political ideology. Since he was a communist (In one Lennon Biography, he was quoted as saying “I really thought that love would save us. But now I’m wearing a Chairman Mao badge, that’s where it’s at. I’m just beginning to think he’s doing a good job” (Lennon Remembers, p. 86) when Mao Ze Dong’s policies had killed over 40 million people in China, something well known by the time) He could have been advocating nothing less than the abolition of freedom, speech, and property (the last being the only material means in which we can sustain our existence and something a right to life is directly dependant upon) John Lennon might have very well played a key role in the abandonment of Indochina to the Soviet backed communists which subsequently led to the murder and enslavement of millions and millions of people and no matter how good or enjoyable you might think his music is, for this and this alone he deserves condemnation.
Rest in turmoil John Lennon.
Mark Humphreys excellent compilation of Vietnam war related links.
R.J. Rummels Freedom Democide and War home page
Lennon Wikipedia entry
Damascus Blades contained carbon nanotubes!
Damascus Blades are legendary in both the history of weaponry and metallurgy. These blades were not only significantly stronger, sharper, and more flexible than any steel in blades at the time, and even now, but were aesthetically fascinating, the forming process created beautiful wood grain like patterns in the steel. Stories from the middle ages suggested that a Damascus blade could slice straight through a regular steel 2” mace ball head without a nick. Like Japanese sword making, the process for making Damascus blades were rigorous and refined over the course of centuries. The ceremonies for making them were so precise that they became essentially religious practices. One of my material books tells a horrifying part of forming a Damascus sword which required quenching the red hot blade with the blood of a living slave. First they were stabbed through ‘the fleshy part of the thigh, then through the other leg’s thigh, and then through the gut’. Ouch.
Whether or not this was part of the actual process, large scale manufacturing today still can not match the quality of these hand crafted blades of antiquity. Damascus blades helped lead the Muslim’s to victory thought he crusades, but hundreds of years ago the delicate and specific recipe for creating them was lost. It was only a mere 10 years ago that modern metallurgists were able to replicate in a lab the quality of Damascus steel. Though pattern welding has been around for a while, it only replicated the look of the blades and not their incredible structural superiority.
This interesting news reported in the New York Times science column http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/science/28observ.html?_r=1&oref=slogin shows that some researchers in Germany, after analyzing true Damascus blades, found they contained carbon nanotubes! Nanotubes were not even identified until the late 1980’s, these tubes are made of sphere of carbon molecules, forming a pattern of interlocking pentagons and hexagons, and then with extra rings added in the middle.
Their manufacture is expensive and complex, the longest tubes to date are around 10 cm, but these fascinating carbon tubes represent the strongest material known to man, over 100 times stronger than steel. A macroscopic length of these tubes, formed into a rope, could be invisible to the naked eye yet support well over a ton of weight. Such levels of strength are still conceptually alien to us. Amazingly, the complex and delicate process used to create Damascus blades caused carbon nanotubes to form within these blades, obviously a major contributor to the strength, flexibility, and sharpness of those blades. Damascus Steel, if it could reproduced and then mass produced would be to steel what steel was to wrought iron. Rearden Metal anyone?
Great Scientific American article on Damascus http://www.mines.edu/Academic/met/pe/faculty/eberhart/classes/down_loads/damascus.pdf
Damascus Steel images http://images.google.com/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&q=damascus+steel
Wikiepedia entry on Damascus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_steel
Inventors make the biggest difference in the world.
Every year hundreds of millions of people die from drinking contaminated water. Technologies for cleaning and purifying water are relatively expensive, complex, and require electricity, forbidding their use in most of these countries. Global altruists push for building massive industrial infrastructure to get clean water to these people, but usually end up just funneling money into the corrupt people who are responsible for the cultural and technological stagnation of these areas in the first place. Their do-good efforts often cause more harm than good. Enter the independent, motivated, intelligent inventor. All the great advances of humanity, the things that have truly alleviated the cause of suffering, as opposed to providing only palliative care, have come not from selfless altruists trying to feel good about their contributions to the world, but from motivated intelligent optimistic people conquering nature through the use of technology and their intransigent minds. The Lifestraw is one such simple, elegant, and beautiful device. This inexpensive straw provides clean safe drinking water for up to 1 year for 1 person per straw. Manufactured at a cost of ~$2 USD, these devices could save hundreds of millions of lives per year, and do far more good for the people of the world than all the concerts, special promotions, and celebrity public service announcements combined.
Lifestraw manufacturer http://www.lifestraw.com/en/low/low.asp
GizMag article on the LifeStraw http://www.gizmag.com/go/4418/1/
Some other interesting things…
Largest Superconductor ever built http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/06/sci_nat_enl_1164360921/html/1.stm
Slow motion of Bunker Buster bomb penetrating reinforced hanger and destroying the aircraft inside http://www.infectiousvideos.com/index.php?p=showvid&a=playvid&sid=3402&cr=hotplay
Test firing video of a phalanx http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4897647549985392214
Here is a great quote on this celebration of America’s independance from one of it’s founding fathers.
" I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines being raised that there was painted a rattlesnake with this modest motto under it "dont tread on me". It occurred to me that the rattlesnake, being found in no other quarter of the world besides America, might therefore be chosen to represent her. Having frequently seen the rattlesnake I ran over in my mind every property by which she was distinguished. I recollect that her eye excelled in brightness that of any other animal, and that she has no eye lids, she may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor when once engaged never surrenders, she is therefore en emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretentions of quarreling with her the weapons with which nature has furnished her she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that to those unacquainted with her she appears to be a most defenseless animal and even when they are shown and extended for her defense they appear weak and contemptible, but their wounds however small are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this she never wounds until she has generously given notice even to her enemy and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her. I counted the rattles … and found them just 13, exact the number of colonies united in America, and I recollected too, that this was the only part of the snake that increases in numbers. … Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are and yet how firmly they are united together so as to never be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living. The rattlesnake is solitary and associates with her kind only when it is necessary for their preservation. In winter the warmth of a number together will preserve their lives, while singly they would probably perish. The power of fascination attributed to her by her a generous construction may be understood to mean that those who consider the liberty and blessing which America affords and once come over to her never afterwards leave her, but spend their lives with her. She strongly resembles America in this, that she is beautiful in youth and her beauty increaseth with her age, her tongue is blue and forked as the lightning, and her abode is among impenetrable rocks. "
- Benjamin Franklin (From the Completed Autobiography)