The Nazi Smart Bombs

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Precision-guided munitions seem extremely modern, but Nazi Germany developed many missile and precision-guided munition systems during World War II, including the Fritz X radio-controlled bomb and the Henschel Hs 293 radio-controlled guided missile — another glide-bomb, but with small wings and a rocket engine slung underneath it.

They failed as wonder weapons though, if only because the Germans had lost air superiority:

It’s hard to estimate losses caused by the guided weapons. German air raids saturated Allied defenses by combining smart bomb attacks with conventional dive bomber and torpedo assaults, so it is always not clear which weapon hit a ship.

The Allies also tried to maintain morale by attributing guided weapon losses to conventional weapons.

Bollinger counts 903 aircraft sorties that carried around 1,200 guided weapons. Of those 1,200, almost a third were never fired because the launch aircraft aborted or were intercepted.

Of the remaining 700 weapons, another third malfunctioned. Of the approximately 470 whose guidance systems worked, at most 51 — or just over 10 percent — actually hit their targets or landed close enough to damage them.

Bollinger calculates that just 17 to 24 ships were sunk and 14 to 21 damaged.

“At most, only one weapon in 24 dispatched from a German airfield scored a hit or damage-causing near miss,” Bollinger writes. “Only about one in 14 of the missiles launched achieved similar success, and at most one in nine of those known to respond to operator guidance was able to hit the target or cause significant damage via a near-miss.”

“This is very different from the 50-percent hit rate experienced during operational testing,” Bollinger points out.

To be fair, the technology was new. There were no lasers or fire control computers. The Fritz-X and Hs 293 were manually guided all the way. Operators had to track both missile and target through cloud, fog and smoke, without the benefit of modern thermal sights.

“It was virtually impossible to hit a ship that was steaming more than 20 knots and could fire back,” Bollinger tells War is Boring. “Almost all of the hits were against slow and/or defenseless targets.”

Bollinger hypothesizes that a phenomenon called “multi-path interference,” unknown at the time, may also have hampered the performance of the Hs 293. Radio command signals sent from the bomber to the missile might have overshot the weapon, bounced off the ocean surface below and interfered with the missile guidance signal.

The early jammers were ineffective, but Bollinger believes that by the time of the Normandy assault in June 1944, the equipment had improved enough to offer a measure of protection — and partly explains why German missiles performed poorly later in the war.

Strangely, while the Germans took measures to counteract Allied jamming of their air defense radars, they never really addressed the possibility that their anti-ship missiles were also being jammed.

It’s wrong to blame the bomb for the faults of the bomber. The real cause for the failure of German smart bombs was that by the time they were introduced in late 1943, the Luftwaffe was almost a spent force.

Already thinly spread supporting the hard-pressed armies in Russia and the West, the German air arm suffered relentless bombardment by U.S. B-17s and B-24s. The Third Reich could never deploy more than six bomber squadrons at a time equipped with the Fritz-X and Hs 293.

When the Luftwaffe ruled the skies over Poland and France in 1939, this might have been enough. By late 1943, a guided-bomb run was practically suicide.

German bombers making daylight attacks had to run a gauntlet of fighters protecting Allied ships in the daytime. Night attacks were marginally safer for the bombers but still exposed them to radar-equipped British and American night fighters. The Allies aggressively bombed any airfield suspected of harboring the smart bombers.

“Allied fighter air cover was by far the most important factor,” Bollinger tells War is Boring. “Not only did it lead to large numbers of glide-bombing aircraft getting shot down, it also forced the Germans to shift missions from daylight to dusk or nighttime. This in itself lead to a major and measurable reduction in accuracy.”

Many raids would cost the Germans a few bombers. By the standards of the thousand-bomber raids over Germany, this was trifling. But for the handful of specially trained and equipped Luftwaffe squadrons, it was catastrophic.

Of the 903 aircraft sorties, Bollinger estimates that in 112 of them, the bombers were lost before launching their weapons. Another 21 were shot down or crashed on the return flight, for an overall loss ratio of 15 percent.

“Each time a pilot departed on a glide bomb mission, he had almost a one-in-seven chance of never returning in that aircraft safely,” Bollinger says. “Put another way, the probability that a pilot would return safely after each of the first 10 missions was only 20 percent.”

Yosemite Bears and Human Food

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Researchers performed isotope analysis of hair and bone samples to study Yosemite bears’ changing diets over the past century:

Yosemite National Park was established in 1890, and Hopkins obtained samples from bears killed between 1915 and 1919 to represent the earliest time period. In those early years, bears were attracted to garbage dumps in the park and were often killed when they became a nuisance. Visitors liked to see bears, however, and in 1923 the park began intentionally feeding bears where visitors could watch them. The last artificial feeding area closed in 1971. There was also a fish hatchery in Yosemite Valley, from 1927 to 1956, where bears once helped themselves to fresh trout from the holding tanks. But closing the hatchery and the feeding areas didn’t stop bears from eating human food.

“The bears just went back to the campgrounds and hotels and continued to find human food,” Hopkins said.

The average figures for the proportion of human food in bear diets during the four time periods in the study were 13 percent for the period from 1915 to 1919; 27 percent for 1928 to 1939; 35 percent for 1975 to 1985; and 13 percent again for 2001 to 2007.

These results are based on a kind of chemical forensics in which Koch’s lab specializes. Isotopic analysis of an animal’s tissues can yield clues to its diet because of natural variability in the abundance of rare isotopes of elements such as carbon and nitrogen. Isotope ratios (the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12, for example) are different in human foods than in the wild plants and animals that black bears naturally eat in Yosemite, partly due to the large amounts of meat and corn-based foods in our diets.

In order to analyze the data from Yosemite bears that ate a mixture of human and natural foods, Hopkins had to get samples from bears that did not eat any human food, and he had to track down samples of the non-native trout that had been raised in the hatchery. He also needed data representing a 100 percent human food diet, for which he turned to the Smithsonian Institution for samples of human hair from different periods over the past century.

“He searched far and wide to get the collection of samples we analyzed, and that collection made the study powerful enough to answer the question of how management practices affect bear diets,” Koch said.

According to Hopkins, the key to managing bear problems is to prevent bears from becoming conditioned to eat human food in the first place.

The Germ Theory of Culture

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Much of what we like to think of as politics, morality, and culture is really disease avoidance behavior:

Some species of primate, Thornhill told me, will ostracize sick members of the group to avoid the spread of disease. Cows and other ungulates are known to rotate their movements among pastures in such a way as to avoid the larvae of intestinal worms that hatch in their waste. And in ant societies, only a small number of workers are given the task of hauling away the dead, while sick ants will sometimes leave the nest to die apart from the group.


The threat of disease is not uniform around the world. In general, higher, colder, and drier regions have fewer infectious diseases than warmer, wetter climates. To survive, people in this latter sort of terrain must withstand a higher degree of “pathogen stress.” Thornhill and his colleagues theorize that, over time, the pathogen stress endemic to a place tends to steer a culture in distinct ways. Research has long shown that people in tropical climates with high pathogen loads, for example, are more likely to develop a taste for spicy food, because certain compounds in these foods have antimicrobial properties. They are also prone to value physical attractiveness — a signal of health and “immunocompetence,” according to evolutionary theorists — more highly in mates than people living in cooler latitudes do.


Fincher suspected that many behaviors in collectivist cultures might be masks for behavioral immune responses. To take one key example, collectivist cultures tend to be both more xenophobic and more ethnocentric than individualist cultures. Keeping strangers away might be a valuable defense against foreign pathogens, Fincher thought. And a strong preference for in-group mating might help maintain a community’s hereditary immunities to local disease strains. To test his hypothesis, Fincher set out to see whether places with heavier disease loads also tended toward these sorts of collectivist values.

Working with Damian Murray and Mark Schaller, two psychologists from the University of British Columbia, and Thornhill, Fincher compared existing databases that rated cultural groups on the individualist-collectivist spectrum with data collected from the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network and other sources. The team paid special attention to nine pathogens (including malaria, leprosy, dengue, typhus, and tuberculosis) that are detrimental to human reproductive fitness. What the team found was a strong correlation between collectivist values and places with high pathogen stress. In 2008, Fincher, Thornhill, Schaller, and Murray published a major paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B that laid out the connection.

Thornhill and Fincher found further evidence for the pathogen stress theory by looking at geographical regions that had not only severe disease stress but also a highly diverse patchwork of local pathogen populations. The critters that make us ill — not only the viruses and bacteria, but also the ticks, flies, and mosquitoes that spread them — are tiny and lack the ability to regulate their own heat as larger organisms do. They often flourish only in very narrow climatic zones, where they are adapted to certain temperature and moisture levels. As a result, pathogen threats can be highly localized. One study, for instance, found at least 124 genetically distinct strains of the parasite Leishmania braziliensis across Peru and Bolivia.

If you were to live in such a pathogenically diverse place, you and your family would likely develop a resistance or immunity to your local parasites. But that defense might be useless if you were to move in with a group just a short distance away — or if a stranger, carrying a foreign pathogen load, were to insinuate himself into your clan. In such places, then, it would be important for neighboring groups to be able to tell the difference between “us” and “them.” With that thought in mind, Thornhill and his colleagues made a prediction: that regions with a balkanized landscape of localized parasites would in turn display a balkanized landscape of localized customs and conspicuous cultural differences among human populations — dialects, unique religious displays, distinctive art and music, and the like. While there is much more research to be done, early findings suggest that — particularly when it comes to the development of local languages and religions — pathogen stress does appear to spawn cultural diversity.

Target Shooting In America

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Target shooting In America is big business:

Target Shooting in America

Sacred Values

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Sacred values, like devotion to God or a collective cause, signal group identity, Scott Atran says, and inspire non-rational exertions independent of likely outcomes:

In interviews, experiments, and surveys with Palestinians, Israelis, Indonesians, Indians, Afghans, and Iranians, my research with psychologists Jeremy Ginges and Douglas Medin finds that offering people material incentives (large amounts of money, guarantees for a life free of political violence) to compromise sacred values can backfire, increasing stated willingness to use violence toward compromise. This research, supported by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, shows that backfire effects occur both for sacred values with clear religious investment (Jerusalem, Shariah law) and those with initially none (Iran’s right to nuclear capability, Palestinian refugees’ right of return).

For example, a 2010 study of attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program found that, for most Iranians, having a nuclear program has nothing sacred about it. But it had become a sacred subject through religious rhetoric for about 13 percent of the population. This group, which tends to be close to the regime, now believes a nuclear program is bound up with the national identity and with Islam itself, so that offering material rewards or punishments to abandon the program only increases anger and support for it.

While sacralization of initially secular issues blocks standard “business-like” negotiation tactics, work with political scientist Robert Axelrod among political leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere indicates that strong symbolic gestures (sincere apologies, demonstrating respect for the other’s values) generate surprising flexibility, even among militants and political leaders, and may enable subsequent material negotiations. For example, we find that Palestinian leaders and their supporting populations are generally willing to accept Israeli offers of economic improvement only after issues of recognition are addressed. Especially if symbolic gestures are tied to religious notions that are open to interpretation, they may be reframed without compromising their absolute “truth” (for example, rethinking Jerusalem as less a place than portal to heaven, where earthly access to the portal suffices).

Surprisingly few wars are started by religions, he notes — but religion takes on a critical role once things get going:

The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history, and only 123 (7 percent) were religious; a BBC-sponsored “War Audit,” which evaluated major conflicts over 3,500 years rated on a 0 to 5 scale for religious motivation (Punic wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no religious motivation, and less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. But when conflict is framed by competing religious and sacred values, intergroup violence may persist for decades, even centuries. Disputes over otherwise mundane phenomena then become existential struggles, as when land becomes “Holy Land.”

During protracted intergroup conflict, secular issues tend to become sacralized and non-negotiable, regardless of material rewards or punishments, as with Iran’s nuclear program among regime supporters. In a multiyear study, we found that Palestinian adolescents who perceived strong threats to their people and were highly involved in religious ritual were most likely to see political issues like the right of refugees to return to homes in Israel as absolute moral imperatives, forbidding Palestinian leaders to compromise whatever the costs. Our work with Greg Berns and his neuroeconomics team suggests that such values become transcendent, emotionally-charged yet stable over time, and processed in the brain as duties bound by rules rather than utilitarian calculations. Neuroimaging also reveals that violations of sacred values trigger emotional responses consistent with sentiments of moral outrage.

Skimming the Top off of Foreign Societies

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Amy Chua’s The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America focuses on eight prosperous minorities within the US. As Steve Sailer notes, many of these groups’ success in America is less the product of culture than of simply skimming the intellectual and financial top off of foreign societies:

Many Indians (total population back home: 1.237 billion) and Nigerians (169 million) in the US are here because they are related to somebody rich enough and smart enough to pursue graduate study in the US.

Cubans and Iranians (like the Vietnamese whom Chua leaves out) are refugees from the rich ruling class of extinct pro-American regimes. Cubans have recently been reinvigorated politically by the increasing ethnicization of politics. With all the emphasis on amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants, blow-dried Cuban politicians have elbowed their way to the front as the Hispanic Talented Tenth, a mediagenic elite more TV-savvy than actual illegal aliens, who tend to be short, round, and inarticulate in any language.

In fact, many Iranians didn’t even have to start over. They’re not just benefiting from their superior human capital; they’re living off their financial capital they looted from their native land during the oil boom of the 1970s. Years before the Shah fell, numerous rich Iranians relocated much of their fortunes to Beverly Hills.

Moreover, the current Iranian government isn’t ideologically anti-capitalist like Cuba, so many Iranians in the US (including, perhaps surprisingly, many Jewish Persians), continue to profit from enterprises back home while enjoying the good life in the Hollywood Hills. I’m sure you would similarly find that, say, Russians in Cyprus and Monaco are doing pretty well for themselves, too, without looking too hard for their cultural secrets.

Notes on Arrow Wounds

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In 1862, J.H. Bill’s Notes on Arrow Wounds appeared in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences:

The arrow is a weapon of the greatest antiquity. It is one with which, in this country, at least, we are all familiar; nevertheless, there is nowhere now extant an account of the wounds produced by it sufficiently accurate or definite to guide a surgeon in their treatment, or to give to the medical antiquary a record of their history and appearance. Before long these wounds will become of unfrequent occurrence, for our Indian tribes are fast being exterminated. We propose, in the first place, as a matter of historical interest, to state in this article what we know of arrow wounds. The subject still presents much of practical interest to the surgeon, and must continue so to do, in a greater or less degree, for the future. It will be some time before all our Indian tribes are “civilized off the face of all creation,” and many a soldier and settler has yet to pay the death penalty for his courage or hardihood. Moreover, the bow and arrow is in use among the Tscherkesses of the Russian army, for the purpose of picking off sentinels without creating an alarm. It is probable that a corps of carefully selected bowmen would be found of great use in our own army for like purposes. Franklin has suggested the employment of arrows in battles, to be shot from bows or fired from guns. Arrow wounds are, therefore, and for some time likely to be, of practical interest.

Tscherkesses, by the way, appear to be Circassians.

Dr. Bill finds arrow wounds especially lethal, because of the arrows’ two-part construction, with the shaft loosely attached to the head:

Such being the mechanism of the arrow, we can readily understand the danger peculiar to arrow wounds in general, a danger often seen in pistol-ball wounds of the chest. Let us suppose a case to illustrate and explain our meaning. An arrow is shot at a man at a distance of fifty yards. It penetrates his abdomen, and without wounding an intestine or a great vessel, lodges in the body of one of the vertebrae. The arrow is grasped by the shaft by some officious friend, and after a little tugging is pulled out. We said the arrow is pulled out. This was a mistake; it is the shaft only of the arrow that is pulled out. The angular and jagged head has been left buried in the bone to kill — for so it surely will-the victim. The explanation of such mishaps is this: the ribbon of tendon which compressed together the split sides of the end of the arrow, and so clamped the head and the shaft together, had become wetted with the fluids effused in the course of the wound. When wetted, it was, of course, lengthened, and, if lengthened, loosened. It ceased longer to bind together the split sides of the shaft; this and the head were, consequently, very feebly united and readily detached. Experience has abundantly shown, and none know the fact better than the Indians themselves, that any arrow wound of chest or abdomen, in which the arrow-head is detached from the shaft and lodged, is mortal. From this we conclude that the danger peculiar to all arrow wounds is, that the shaft becoming detached from the head of an implanted arrow, leaves this so deeply imbedded in a bone that it cannot be withdrawn, and that, remaining, it kills. It is not possible with forceps to extract an arrow-head so lodged (if lodged deeply), throwing aside the difficulty of discovering and the danger of searching for it. The blades of forceps long enough for this purpose (supposing the foreign body deeply lodged in the chest) would bend too readily with the force required for the removal of the missile. The greatest force is sometimes required for the extraction of an arrow-head so lodged. We have seen an arrow shot at a distance of one hundred yards, so deeply imbedded in an oak plank, that it required great force, applied by strong tooth-forceps, to remove it. In the case of a man shot in the shaft of the humerus by an arrow, it was only after using both knees, applied to the ends of the bone as a counter-extending force, and a stout pair of tooth-forceps, that we succeeded in removing the foreign body. Another similar case will be mentioned hereafter. Asst. Surgeon McKee had a case, also, in which considerable force was required to extract an arrow-head lodged in the trochanter, and other instances illustrating the difficulty sometimes encountered in the removal of arrow-heads lodged in bone could readily be adduced.

We have dwelt thus at length upon the mechanism of the arrow because we consider that upon a rightful understanding of the same must depend an intelligent and a skilful treatment of the wound which it occasions. The arrow-head removed by proper treatment, and we have an ordinary punctured wound, such as a poniard or stiletto would make. The wounds inflicted by these last named weapons are dangerous and troublesome for this reason. When such a weapon pierces any deep tissue, it must do so through some other tissue possessed of a contractile or muscular power. As soon as the weapon is withdrawn, this last named tissue contracts, and thus draws the wound in itself upwards or downwards, interrupting the continuity of the wound as a whole; whence it happens that all such wounds, the pus or efi‘used liquids finding no outlet, are apt to be attended with burrowing of matter and deep-seated abscess. This remark applies to arrow wounds, although they partake of the nature of incised wounds, and, therefore, oftener heal by first intention than do the punctured wounds of the stiletto or bayonet, attended as these are with much bruising and tearing of tissues. Arrow wounds are often complicated by profuse hemorrhage, and for the same reason that in bayonet wounds abscesses form, through inability of matter, to find a ready outlet, in arrow wounds haematomata result. In fact, when arrow wounds suppurate, they generally do so through disorganization of these collections of blood.

What parts of the body are oftenest wounded by the arrow, and what is the relative fatality?, he asks — and then produces this table:

Notes on Arrow Wounds 1

The above table includes all the reliable cases of arrow wounds falling under our notice.

On referring to it, it will be seen that the upper extremity is oftenest wounded, next comes the abdomen, next the chest, next the lower extremity, next the head, and, lastly, the neck. The reason that the upper extremity is so often wounded, is that a person can see an arrow darting towards him, and very naturally putting out his arm to ward it 011′, receives a wound oftener in this member than in any other. Wounds of the abdomen are oftenest fatal (more than three-fifths of the total deaths occurred from wounds of abdomen), next come wounds of chest, wounds of head and heart next, and wounds of spinal marrow, and upper and lower extremity are last.

An expert bowman can easily discharge six arrows per minute, and a man wounded with one is almost sure to receive several arrows. In the above table, when a man was wounded in more places than one, the most serious wound, or that which immediately caused his death, is recorded. We have not seen more than one or two men wounded by a single arrow only. In three of our soldiers shot by Nabajoes, we counted forty-two arrow wounds; this is an extreme case, as the manufacture of the arrow costs the Indian too much labour and time to expend one unnecessarily. The cause of death in the twenty-nine fatal cases may be thus summed up :—

Notes on Arrow Wounds 2

A flesh wound really is just a flesh wound, by the way:

First, then, for the simplest case; an arrow wound involving no parts essential to life. Let us suppose a case.
A man is shot by an arrow which passes through integuments and muscles, and grazing the bone, makes its exit on the other side of a limb. What appearance is presented after the accident? We will find at the spot where the arrow entered, a very small and narrow slit, surrounded by a circular patch of bruised integument of a dusky-red colour. It is almost impossible to say whether the slit was made by a pistol-ball or an arrow, so closely does the entrance wound made by an arrow resemble that made by a small ball. On the other side of the limb another slit, somewhat larger than that above described, is seen, but not surrounded by the red areola. This is the exit wound. What is the treatment? Apply cold or evaporating lotions, place the limb at perfect rest, let the patient diet himself, and the chances are favourable of such a wound healing by first intention. At all events this is the indication. Ordinarily, such a wound will be quite well in a week.

There’s just something about the writing of that era:

  • “We have seen but one case of a large artery of a limb divided by an arrow, and that case terminated fatally before we saw the man. He was a Mexican, and was shot in the groin while on horseback. The arrow pierced the femoral artery just below Poupart’s ligament. The man lived twelve hours, but was brought into the post dead.”
  • “Private Martin, of the 3d Infantry, was shot in his right leg by an arrow — the arrow passing out. I saw him shortly after the receipt of the injury. The only thing remarkable was the agonizing pain, referable to the small toes and outside of foot.”
  • “Private Bishop was shot in the head of the humerus with an arrow, and the shaft having been plucked out, the iron head was left deeply imbedded in the bone. The man was in great pain, synovia was flowing out of the wound, and all motion was lost. I enlarged the wound, introduced my finger, and so ascertained the position and depth of the arrow-head. It was very deeply implanted.”
  • “I have already alluded to another case, in which I removed an arrow from the shaft of the humerus by bracing the end of the humerus against my knees, and then applying all my strength to the foreign body by means of forceps.”
  • “The first case was that of a Mexican shot by an Apache, the arrow-head striking the ulna in its upper third. The man withdrew the shaft immediately, and then came to me. I enlarged the wound, and prudently made an examination with my finger.”
  • “The second case was that of Corporal Scott, shot at Fort Defiance, by a Nabajoe. I enlarged the wound, and followed the arrow shaft with my finger until I reached the iron head. The arrow had entered on the posterior and outer aspect of the leg, penetrated the muscles of the calf, scraped the fibula about two inches from its head, and then wrapped itself firmly around this bone.”
  • “Dr. Kennon informs us that he had a case of this kind, in which he re~ moved from the thigh of a Mexican an arrow-head which had been lodged six months previously in the femur. The surgeon attending the man at the time of the accident, had failed to remove the foreign body, contenting himself merely with a withdrawal of the arrow shaft.”
  • “A fourth case, illustrating this peculiar accident, occurred in the practice of Asst. Surgeon Clements, U. S. A., during the last campaign against the Nabajoes. A surgeon was shot through the upper part of the posterior fold of the axilla with an arrow, which penetrated deeply. The shaft was pulled out, leaving the head imbedded. The man then went to the doctor. The case was treated by Dr. Clements for six weeks or two months, but without benefit, and finally it was decided that the arrow-head must be re moved. The doctor accordingly made a T-shaped incision over the seapula, cutting through integument and muscle, and exposing the bone. The foreign body was, after some search, found, but so twisted and bent, that notwithstanding the large incisions made, it was only after the application of some force by strong tooth-forceps, that the head was removed. Secondary hemorrhage took place twelve hours after, but was checked by (we believe) the actual cautery. The man slowly recovered.”
  • “Miguel “ Nigro,” the post-guide at Fort Union, was shot with an arrow by a Utah Indian. I found the arrow-head sticking in the left parietal bone, the shaft having been detached. I made traction on it, and drew it out of the wound. The symptoms of compression present at once vanished, the man turned over and sneezed, and rose up on his feet. I had made arrangements to trephine the skull if necessary, but I had probably restored to its proper level that portion of the inner table which was depressed, so that measure was unnecessary. The cause of the compression was gone, and I had nothing to trephine for. The next day the man complained of headache. His face was flushed, eyes sufl’used, pulse hard, and irregular. I ordered croton oil, shaved his head, and applied cold. Presently, when delirium came on, I bled him until he fainted. This bleeding was repeated the night of the same day. The next day he was greatly better; the croton oil had operated well. The man was left to recover, which he did in three weeks.”

It gets “better”:

An arrow wound of lung is from first to last more dangerous than a gunshot wound of the same parts. There are three reasons for this. First, the hemorrhage occurring at the time of the injury, or a few hours after, is much more profuse than in an ordinary gunshot wound. A ball going through the chest does not often give trouble from hemorrhage, unless it should wound a large vessel. The reason is, that a ball tears and bruises, while an arrow makes clean slits and punctures. Secondly, an arrow wounding the lung, is almost sure to lodge, whilst a ball generally passes. Now, hear what Guthrie says about balls that lodge in the chest:

“General McDonald, of the Royal Artillery, was present at Buenos Ayres when a bombardier of that corps received a wound from a two pound shot, which went completely through the right side, so that when led up to the general, who was lying on the ground, he saw the light quite through him, and supposed, of course, that he was lost. This, however, did not follow, and some months afterwards the man walked into General (then Captain) McDonald’s quarters so far recovered from the injury as to be able to undertake several parts of his duty before he was invalided, thus proving the advantage of a shot, however large, going through rather than remaining in the chest.”


Economic Sanctions versus Sacred Values

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Economic sanctions will not deter Russia, Peter Turchin says, because it is defending its sacred values:

Apart from a small and largely powerless pro-Western opposition, the Russian political class is solidly behind Putin on the issue of Ukraine. The great majority of politicians from all parties represented in Duma (the Russian Parliament) and most political commentators perceive the post-Soviet history of NATO-Russia relations as a relentless drive by NATO to encircle and isolate Russia; a kind of the “winner-take-all” policy. Russia has already went to war in Georgia in 2008 to indicate that are some “red lines” that it will not tolerate crossing. The stakes are even higher in Ukraine — a much larger country inhabited by millions of Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Very importantly, Crimea is also the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. Crimea, thus, is of huge geopolitical importance to Russia, serving as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” and the only naval port open year-around. Their fears may be exaggerated, but the political class perceives returning Crimea to the Russian orbit as a necessary condition for retaining the status of a great power, which is for many an existential issue.

If the geopolitical aspect has been discussed by many American commentators, the second fact, sacred values, has been completely ignored. But it shouldn’t be, because in many ways it is of the overriding importance.

Crimea is of a huge symbolic significance to the Russians. As I described in my book War and Peace and War, for centuries the Crimean Tatars were a dagger in the Russian southern “underbelly” — raiding, looting, killing, and enslaving millions of Russians (“millions” is not an exaggeration).

It took three centuries for Russia to push the steppe frontier south to the point when it finally encompassed Crimea. Crimea was ceded to Russia in 1774 by the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Crimea, and particularly Sevastopol (founded by Catherine the Great), were associated with resistance against external enemies – during the Crimean War and World War II (in both cases, Russian historical books refer to the “heroic defense of Sevastopol”). When the Soviet Union collapsed, the great majority of Russians felt that it was a great mistake to allow Crimea to be retained by Ukraine (it was gifted to Ukraine by the Communist leader Khruschev in 1954 as “a token of eternal friendship”). So a return of Crimea to Russia is perceived as righting a historical wrong. Crimea to Russians is what Scott Atran calls a “sacred value.”

Threatening economic sanctions when sacred values are in balance is counterproductive. Such a threat is actually much more likely to stiffen the resolve to defend them at all costs.

As a result, Putin’s policy towards Ukraine is very popular among the Russians, which includes, importantly, both his support group among the elites (the so-called siloviki, recruited from the military and intelligence agencies) and just common people. Judging from the comments in the blogosphere, he is regaining support even among many people who have been quite critical of the “Putin’s regime” because it is broadly perceived as rather corrupt and primarily serving bureaucrats and their businessmen cronies. These people are very supportive of “returning Crimea to us.” Some even say that if Putin returns Crimea to Russia, they will forgive him all.

If Putin retreats on this issue, on the other hand, he will lose all credibility among large swaths of the Russian population. And everything suggests that Putin is very careful to retain and nurture his high approval rating. So a recent jump in the approval rating from 60.6 percent in January to 67.8 percent in March suggests that he would be quite immune to the threats of economic sanctions.

President Obama says Russia must be punished

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Jerry Pournelle is now convinced that no one in power in this nation knows any history whatsoever:

Not even the history of the Seventy Years War with Bolshevism or what we call The Cold War — which now may become Cold War One if Barrack Hussein Obama de Santa Anna has his way. The State Department has, I am told, 3000 officers with PH.D.’s. One wonders in what subjects. Certainly not in history.

Before Putin came to power, Clinton went out of his way to kick the Russians in the shins in the Balkan incidents; matters there came within minutes of a shooting engagement between a Russian commander and American forces; this in American support of the Bosnian side in a blood feud going back to the time of Suleiman the Magnificent and the Siege of Vienna in 1527.

When the Turks conquered the lower Balkans, they imposed the Koran-mandated tax on unbelievers. The tax imposed was young boys to be taken to Istanbul, forcibly converted, and raised to be Janissaries, elite infantry of the Turkish Army. Some Balkans converted to Islam and thus became tax collectors. Ethnically, the differences between Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croat are small; but under the Turks the non-Muslims paid taxes and the Muslims collected them. This created blood feuds in a land known for them for two thousand years. Many of those family feuds continued to this day.

After the collapse of the Soviet System there was a period in which there was indeed a reset in the relationship between Russia and the United States, as Herman Kahn predicted there would be. Then came the Balkan crisis in which the ancient blood feuds dating back to the 13th Century were revived. That had lasted through the conquests of the Balkans and Hungary in the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, and continued as the Turkish controls began to recede.  Then came the first Balkan Wars with their “Bulgarian Atrocities”, and the gradual liberation of Balkan nations, the brief existence of the Christian Kingdom of Montenegro, consolidation with Serbia, World War I and the dissolution of the Austrian Empire, formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, German occupation of the Balkans, communist Tito vs. Christian monarchist Draza Mihailovich, Tito’s victory and consolidation of Yugoslavia, Tito’s defection from the Soviet bloc and his attempt to play the USSR against the West to his advantage, and the breakup of Yugoslavia at his death. And during all those times the ancient blood feuds and hatreds continued. All contending sides had factions who advocated and used ethnic cleansing as a tactic.

The Russians, as Russians always do — see the origins of The Great War — took the side of the Christian Slavs. This resulted in several standoffs between US and Russian forces, one or which came within minutes of a shooting engagement. The US began bombing Serbs, and US air strikes crippled the economy of the Lower Danube for at least a year. From the Russian view, the US chose sides: against Slavs. The truth of this is not so important as the deep seated belief among many Russians that it is true.

About 100,000 people were killed in the Bosnian War.

Obama has called for Russia to be punished. Speak loudly and carry a willow switch, Pournelle concludes.

State-Breakdown Revolutions

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Tipping-point revolutions are too superficial to make deep structural changes, Randall Collins argues, but state-breakdown revolutions can make meaningful changes:

Three ingredients must come together to produce a state-breakdown revolution.

(1) Fiscal crisis or paralysis of state organization. The state runs out of money, is crushed by debts, or otherwise is so burdened that it cannot pay its own officials. This often happens through the expense of past wars or huge costs of current war, especially if one is losing. The crisis is deep and structural because it cannot be evaded; it is not a matter of ideology, and whoever takes over responsibility for running the government faces the same problem. When the crisis grows serious, the army, police and officials no longer can enforce order because they themselves are disaffected.

This was the route to the 1789 French Revolution; the 1640 English Revolution; the 1917 Russian Revolution; and the 1853–68 Japanese revolution (which goes under the name of the Meiji Restoration). The 1989–91 anti-Soviet revolution similarly began with struggles to reform the Soviet budget, overburdened by military costs of the Cold War arms race.

(2) Elite deadlock between state faction and economic privilege faction. The fiscal crisis cannot be resolved because the most powerful and privileged groups are split. Those who benefit economically from the regime resist paying for it (whether these are landowners, financiers, or even a socialist military-industrial complex); reformers are those who are directly responsible for keeping the state running. The split is deep and structural, since it does not depend on ideological preferences; whoever takes command, whatever their ideas, must deal with the reality of organizational paralysis. We are not dealing here with conflict between parties in the public sphere or the legislature; such partisan squabbling is common, and it may also exist at the same time as a state crisis. Deadlock between the top elites is far more serious, because it stymies the two most powerful forces, the economic elite and the ruling officials.

(3) Mass mobilization of dissidents. This factor is last in causal order; it becomes important after state crisis and elite deadlock weaken the enforcement power of the regime. This power vacuum provides an opportunity for movements of the public to claim a solution. The ideology of the revolutionaries is often misleading; it may have nothing to do with the causes of the fiscal crisis itself (e.g. claiming the issue is one of political reform, democratic representation, or even returning to some earlier religious or traditional image of utopia). The importance of ideology is mostly tactical, as an emotion-focusing device for group action. And in fact, after taking state power, revolutionary movements often take actions contrary to their ideology (the early Bolshevik policies on land reform, for instance; or the Japanese revolutionary shifts between anti-western antipathy and pro-western imitation). The important thing is that the revolutionary movement is radical enough to attack the fiscal (and typically military) problems, to reorganize resources so that the state itself becomes well-funded. This solves the structural crisis and ends state breakdown, enabling the state to go on with other reforms. That is why state breakdown revolutions are able to make deep changes in institutions: in short, why they become “historic” revolutions.

The Arkham Digest Interviews Nic Pizzolatto

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

The Arkham Digest interviews Nic Pizzolatto, creator of HBO’s True Detective:

It seems that some elements of True Detective draw influence from the realm of literary horror. I speak not only of the references to The King in Yellow, but also the stick-like creations reminiscent of Karl Edward Wagner’s story “Sticks”, as well as Cohle’s Ligottian worldview. What drew you to these elements, and how did you go about choosing to incorporate them into the show?

Nic: Sure. That influence is, like everything in True Detective, part of a whole-earth catalog of cultural obsessions, including my own. If your character conveys a vision of cosmic horror, it felt appropriate for me to dramatize the Lovecraftian sense of madness, of a carnivorous universe in which you’re food. And Cohle’s attitude is similar to things Lovecraft said (and Cioran, and Schopenhauer), though we can see Cohle would have a substantial confirmation-bias based on his life story.

The stick lattices are actually things I discovered in researching early Megalith cultures and the mound-builders in Louisiana, but I discovered Wagner’s story and then it seemed even more appropriate to the kind of subconscious cultural associations the killer creates, the atavistic dread that the show tries to transmit. I suppose what drew me to these elements were the show’s themes and characters, and my own interests, which to be fair are pretty broad and discursive. And no one told me I couldn’t do it, you know? If these things are all appropriate to the story and its themes and they can be incorporated organically and become an authentic part of the story, why not? Why not mash these influences together? Provided it’s in a way that doesn’t betray or lead astray the governing genre being served.

The landscape itself is a rather looming presence. What can you tell me about your choice of venue and what it means for the story?

Nic: The landscape is literally the third lead in the show. This is the area of the country where I grew up, and I knew the kinds of environments waiting for us there. Very detailed, prosaic descriptions of setting were a large part of the script: taking these opportunities to witness the contradictions of place and people, to feel a sense of a corrupted, degrading Eden. It was always going to be a rural show, but originally in the Ozarks, which I also know. Out of a few subsidy states, I chose Louisiana for the move because there were all these personal connotations and knowledge of the place I could bring to bear. It enabled me to write landscape that was almost as full as the characters, and that became an important guidepost in the writing: the awareness of contradiction, the landscape as culture.

The show is straddling a fine line between realistic terror and what could be interpreted as the supernatural, or figments of madness. Do you find this a tricky balance to pull off?

Nic: A bit. We have a hallucinating detective in episode 2, which is weird, and the visions themselves are almost religious in their metaphysical nature. But the important thing, I think, is that there is a realistic explanation for everything. Cohle’s visions are accounted for by his neural damage, probably guided in some part by his unconscious associations. There’s no evidence to suggest that the things we’ve seen are the result of anything supernatural. Ritualism, some sort of worship is implied in the murder, but there’s nothing supernatural. Reality is the dread, and that’s probably where the line’s drawn. So we can touch these things and by doing so provide avenues for layers of meaning to settle and refract and resonate, but we don’t strictly-speaking break from the realist mode.

In a follow-up interview, he discusses Thomas Ligotti.

The Egyption Revolution

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

The Egyptian revolution of early 2011, the most famous of the Arab Spring revolutions, fits most closely to the model of 1848 France, Randall Collins says:

Egypt took longer to build up to the tipping point — 18 days instead of 3; and there were more casualties in the initial phase — 400 killed and 6000 wounded (compared to 50 killed in February 1848) because there was more struggle before the tipping point was reached.  Already from day 7, troops sent to guard Tahrir Square in Cairo declared themselves neutral, and most of the protestors’ causalities came from attacks by unofficial government militias or thugs. By day 16, police who killed demonstrators were arrested, and the dictator Mubarak offered concessions, which were rejected as unacceptable. On the last day of the 18-day revolution, everyone had deserted  Mubarak and swung over to the bandwagon, including his own former base of support, the military. This continuity is one reason why the aftermath did not prove so revolutionary.

Again, honeymoon did not last long.  By day 43, women who assembled in Tahrir Square were heckled and threatened, and Muslim-Christian violence broke out in Cairo. Tahrir Square continued to be used as a symbolic rallying point, but largely as a scene of clashes between opposing camps. Structural reforms have not gone very deep. The Islamist movement elected in the popular vote relegated to a minority the secularists and liberals who had been most active in the revolution. President Morsi bears some resemblance to Louis Bonaparte, who rose to power on the reputation of an ancestral movement — both had a record of opposition to the regime, but were ambiguous about their own democratic credentials. The analogy portends a reactionary outcome to a liberating revolution.

Tall Tales

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

I remember enjoying the original Mr. Peabody & Sherman when I watched Rocky & Bullwinkle as a child.

I also remember Commander McBragg, as another, similar segment — but it originally appeared on something called Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, and then on Underdog. Only in syndication did they edit it into Rocky & Bullwinkle.

McBragg’s tales follow in Baron Munchausen’s footsteps:

Near the banks of a large piece of water, which had engaged my attention, I thought I heard a rustling noise behind; on turning about I was almost petrified (as who would not be?) at the sight of a lion, which was evidently approaching with the intention of satisfying his appetite with my poor carcase, and that without asking my consent. What was to be done in this horrible dilemma? I had not even a moment for reflection; my piece was only charged with swan-shot, and I had no other about me: however, though I could have no idea of killing such an animal with that weak kind of ammunition, yet I had some hopes of frightening him by the report, and perhaps of wounding him also. I immediately let fly, without waiting till he was within reach, and the report did but enrage him, for he now quickened his pace, and seemed to approach me full speed: I attempted to escape, but that only added (if an addition could be made) to my distress; for the moment I turned about I found a large crocodile, with his mouth extended almost ready to receive me. On my right hand was the piece of water before mentioned, and on my left a deep precipice, said to have, as I have since learned, a receptacle at the bottom for venomous creatures; in short I gave myself up as lost, for the lion was now upon his hind-legs, just in the act of seizing me; I fell involuntarily to the ground with fear, and, as it afterwards appeared, he sprang over me. I lay some time in a situation which no language can describe, expecting to feel his teeth or talons in some part of me every moment: after waiting in this prostrate situation a few seconds I heard a violent but unusual noise, different from any sound that had ever before assailed my ears; nor is it at all to be wondered at, when I inform you from whence it proceeded: after listening for some time, I ventured to raise my head and look round, when, to my unspeakable joy, I perceived the lion had, by the eagerness with which he sprung at me, jumped forward, as I fell, into the crocodile’s mouth! which, as before observed, was wide open; the head of the one stuck in the throat of the other! and they were struggling to extricate themselves! I fortunately recollected my couteau de chasse, which was by my side; with this instrument I severed the lion’s head at one blow, and the body fell at my feet! I then, with the butt-end of my fowling-piece, rammed the head farther into the throat of the crocodile, and destroyed him by suffocation, for he could neither gorge nor eject it.

I only just learned that famed fantasist Lord Dunsany, known for his poetic, phantasmagorical style, also wrote such tall tales, like The Tale of the Abu Laheeb — with a wonderful framing story:

When I met my friend Murcote in London he talked much of his Club. I had seldom heard of it, and the name of the street in which Murcote told me it stood was quite unknown to me, though I think I had driven through it in a taxi, and remembered the houses as being mean and small. And Murcote admitted that it was not very large, and had no billiard-table and very few rooms; and yet there seemed something about the place that entirely filled his mind and made that trivial street for him the center of London. And when he wanted me to come and see it, I suggested the following day; but he put me off, and again when I suggested the next one. There was evidently nothing much to see, no pictures, no particular wines, nothing that other Clubs boast of; but one heard tales there, he said; very odd ones sometimes; and if I cared to come and see the Club, it would be a good thing to come some evening when old Jorkens was there. I asked who Jorkens was; and he said he had seen a lot of the world. And then we parted, and I forgot about Jorkens, and saw nothing more of Murcote for some days. And then one day Murcote rang me up, and asked me if I’d come to the Club that evening.

I had agreed to come; but before I left my house Murcote surprised me by coming round to see me. There was something he wanted to tell me about Jorkens. He sat and talked to me for some time about Jorkens before we started, though all he said of him might be expressed by one word. Jorkens was a good-hearted fellow, he said, and would always tell a story in the evening to anyone who offered him a small drink; whisky and soda was what he preferred; and he really had seen a good deal of the world, and the Club relied on stories in the evening; it was quite a feature of it; and the Club wouldn’t be the Club without them, and it helped the evening to pass, anyway; but one thing he must warn me, and that was never to believe a word he said. It wasn’t Jorkens’ fault; he didn’t mean to be inaccurate; he merely wished to interest his fellow-members and to make the evening pass pleasantly; he had nothing to gain by any inaccuracies, and had no intention to deceive; he just did his best to entertain the Club, and all the members were grateful to him. But once more Murcote warned me never to believe one of his tales nor any part of them, not even the smallest detail of local color.

“I see,” I said, “a bit of a liar.”

“Oh, poor old Jorkens,” said Murcote, “that’s rather hard. But still, I’ve warned you, haven’t I?”

And, with that quite clearly understood, we went down and hailed a taxi.

It was after dinner that we arrived at the Club; and we went straight up into a small room, in which a group of members was sitting about near the fire, and I was introduced to Jorkens, who was sitting gazing into the glow, with a small table at his right hand. And then he turned to Murcote to pour out what he had probably already said to all the other members.

“A most unpleasant episode occurred here last evening,” he said, “a thing I have never known before, and shouldn’t have thought possible in any decent club, shouldn’t have thought possible.”

“Oh, really,” said Murcote. “What happened?”

“A young fellow came in yesterday,” said Jorkens. “They tell me he’s called Carter. He came in here after dinner, and I happened to be speaking about a curious experience I had once had in Africa, over the watershed of the Congo, somewhere about latitude six, a long time ago. Well, never mind the experience, but I had no sooner finished speaking about it when the young fellow, Carter or whatever he is, said simply he didn’t believe me, simply and unmistakably that he disbelieved my story; claimed to know something of geography or zoology which did not tally in his impudent mind with the actual experience that I had had on the Congo side of the watershed. Now, what are you to do when a young fellow has the effrontery, the brazen-faced audacity…”

“Oh, but we must have him turned out,” said Murcote. “A case like that should come before the Committee at once. Don’t you think so?”

And his eye turned to the other members, roving till it fell on a weary and weak individual who was evidently one of the Committee.

“Oh, er, yes,” said he unconvincingly.

“Well, Mr. Jorkens,” said Murcote, “we’ll get that done at once.”

And one or two more members muttered Yes, and Jorkens’ indignation sank now to minor mutterings, and to occasional ejaculations that shot out petulantly, but in an undertone. The waters of his imagination were troubled still, though the storm was partly abated.

“It seems to me outrageous,” I said, but hardly liked to say any more, being a guest in the Club.

“Outrageous!” the old man replied, and we seemed no nearer to getting any story.

“I wonder if I might ask for a whisky and soda?” I said to Murcote, for a silence had fallen; and at the same time I nodded sideways towards Jorkens to suggest the destination of the whisky. I had waited for Murcote to do this without being asked, and now he ordered three whiskies and sodas listlessly, as though he thought there weren’t much good in it. And when the whisky drew near the lonely table that waited desolate at Jorkens’ right hand, Jorkens said, “Not for me.”

I thought I saw surprise for a moment pass like a ghost through that room, although no one said anything.

“No,” said old Jorkens, “I never drink whisky. Now and then I use it in order to stimulate my memory. It has a wonderful effect on the memory. But as a drink I never touch it. I dislike the taste of it.”

So his whisky went away. We seemed no nearer that story.

I took my glass with very little soda, sitting in a chair near Jorkens. I had nowhere to put it down.

“Might I put my glass on your table?” I said to Jorkens.

“Certainly,” he said, with the utmost indifference in his voice, but not entirely in his eye, which caught the deep yellow flavor as I put it close to his elbow.

We sat for a long time in silence; everyone wanted to hear him talk. And at last his right hand opened wide enough to take a glass, and then closed again. And a while later it opened once more, and moved a little along the table and then drew back, as though for a moment he had thought the drink was his and then had realized his mistake. It was a mere movement of the hand, and yet it showed that here was a man who would not consciously take another man’s drink. And, that being clearly established, a dreamy look came over his face as though he thought of far-off things, and his hand moved very absently. It reached the glass unguided by his eye and brought it to his lips, and he drained it, thinking of far other things.

“Dear me,” he said suddenly, “I hope I haven’t drunk your whisky.”

“Not at all,” I said.

“I was thinking of a very curious thing,” he said, “and hardly noticed what I was doing.”

“Might I ask what it was you were thinking of?” I said.

“I really hardly like to tell you,” he said, “to tell anyone, after the most unpleasant incident that occurred yesterday.”

As I looked at Murcote he seemed to divine my thoughts, and ordered three more whiskies.

It was wonderful how the whisky did brighten old Jorkens’ memory, for he spoke with a vividness of little details that could only have been memory; imagination could not have done it. I leave out the details and give the main points of his story for its zoological interest; for it touches upon a gap in zoology which I believe is probably there, and if the story is true it bridges it.

So Money

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

How did Swingers get to be so money?

Jon Favreau (Mike): When I set out to write Swingers, I didn’t know I was even writing a movie. My dad had given me a screenwriting program and I started the script just as an exercise to see if I could write a screenplay. Swingers is what came out.


I started writing, just drawing from the environment I was living in. I had characters loosely based on people I knew. None of the events were real; it was all a story that came out of my head without an outline.


I wrote the screenplay in about a week and a half. The writing process wasn’t filled with any sort of turmoil. If you really do the math, it’s 10 days, 10 pages a day. It’s not like you’re chained to the computer. I was just entertaining myself and really enjoying it, sort of giggling at it as I was writing it. I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends more as, like, doodles in the notebook than saying, “Hey, here’s my big movie.”


I sent the script to my agent. She sent it out and there were some nibbles. People were interested in optioning it, but they had a lot of notes. They wanted to change Vince’s character to a girl and have them not go to Vegas and said the dialogue was too repetitive, and it had to be darker and more violent. I was really trying to embrace the notes. I tried to change the script, but I just couldn’t.


I said, “Look, before I change anything, why don’t we do a staged reading? Let me bring in the friends of mine that these characters are based on. And that way we could really hear the script as I intended it so you understand the dialogue, and then you can also maybe be open-minded, and maybe cast one of these people?” I figured it’s a shot to put my friends in front of whatever guy who was going to direct this thing.

The budget was small — and allocated in unusual ways:

Favreau: Nicole’s office was in an unfinished garage in the backyard with dogs running around and stuff.

LaLoggia: The door to the outside garage was through my bedroom and it was like people would come walking through at all hours. Jon, Vince — who’s a huge personality — they’d come in the office, they’d put their feet up, they’d wanna talk. I’m like, “I can’t talk about this shit right now. I’ve got shit to do. Get out of here.”

Liman: Our entire lighting package was gonna consist of 100-, 150-watt light bulbs.

Wurmfeld: Our coffee budget was zero. We had it donated.

Liman: Saving on shooting time and movie lights is a big factor, but you still need locations. And Nicole used to cry in front of people, literally. No technique was beneath us to get people to give us things for free or cheap.

LaLoggia: Instead of getting a traditional caterer, we made deals with restaurants in the neighborhood for next to nothing.

Avram Ludwig (associate producer): We spent more money on music in that movie than on the movie. We paid the most for the Dean Martin stuff. I don’t know. I think we paid half a million dollars in music licensing and the movie cost a quarter of a million dollars to make.

LaLoggia: The entire post-production — all the development, all the processing, all the coloring — was free. That would have been our budget alone. So if it weren’t for that, we couldn’t have done it.

Liman: Every day I was telling Jon something else that was un-kosher and he was getting more and more alarmed. Not hiring a DP, a director of photography, seemed to be the thing that particularly [troubled him]. And then one day — a few weeks before we started shooting — he caught me reading a book on basic movie lighting.

Ludwig: Our biggest cost was getting film. Film comes in 1,000-foot loads and 400-foot loads. On a big movie, they’ll throw away the end of the film, like the last hundred feet or so.

Liman: We shot most of the movie with these 100-foot short ends. It’s a minute of film. Which also meant the actors could get through 60 seconds of a scene and I’d have to call reload.

Wurmfeld: I cultivated a lot of relationships with the people around town selling short ends.

LaLoggia: I called this place in L.A. that does recycled, re-canned short ends and I just begged for the cheapest price we could get.

Liman: The problem with shooting on short ends, though, is that it takes four minutes to reload a conventional camera. I thought to myself: We’ll never get through the movie if we shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading, shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading. You’ll never get any kind of rhythm going. So I decided I would shoot the movie with this documentary 35-millimeter film camera that was not designed to shoot dialogue because it sounds like a sewing machine.

Ludwig: The camera was much louder than a regular camera that you’d use for a feature film. But it’s easy to load and very compact. I think it was developed so Godard could have a camera that would fit into his bicycle basket.

Liman: To absorb the sound, I would take my down jacket and put it over the camera and then take the two arms and tie them together underneath the lens. And then my comforter would just get wrapped around the whole thing once. Jon would describe it like he was acting in front of a big, fluffy snowball. But I really think that as insane as that setup was, it created a really safe environment for the actors. Vince really did some extraordinary things, like the scene where he’s supposed to be drunk and he jumps up on the table. You know, he had to do that in front of a lot of people and I feel like they looked at me and they were like, Doug is clearly not being self-conscious.

The strength of the movie was that they had already rehearsed it endlessly:

Favreau: We already knew our characters. It was as though we had been in a stage production of it. I often think of it like Play It Again, Sam, which was onstage before it was ever filmed.

Wurmfeld: Literally every single word that comes out of Vince’s mouth is on the page. That’s what totally blows me away about Jon’s writing — his ability to get someone’s voice, because I think that’s not an easy task. One might think that Vince is improvising, and certainly he can, but I just was amazed that all those jokes and stuff were actually on the page.

If you enjoyed the movie, read the whole thing.

Atrocities and Legitimacy

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

We like to believe that any government that uses force against its own citizens is so marred by the atrocity that it loses all legitimacy, Randall Collins says:

Yet the 1990s and the early 2000s were a time of increasing Chinese prestige. The market version of communist political control became a great economic success; international economic ties expanded and exacted no penalty for the deaths in June 1989; domestically Chinese poured their energies into economic opportunities. Protest movements revived within a decade, but the regime has been quick to clamp down on them. Even the new means of mobilization through the internet has proven to be vulnerable to a resolute authoritarian apparatus, which monitors activists to head off any possible Tiananmen-style assemblies before they start.

The failure of the Chinese democracy movement, both in 1989 and since, tells another sociological lesson. An authoritarian regime that is aware of the tipping point mechanism need not give in to it; it can keep momentum on its own side by making sure no bandwagon gets going among the opposition. Such a regime can be accused of moral violations and even atrocities, but moral condemnation without a successful mobilization is ineffective. It is when one’s movement is growing, seemingly expanding its collective consciousness to include virtually everyone and emotionally overwhelm their opponents, that righteous horror over atrocities is so arousing. Without this, protests remain sporadic, localized and ephemeral at best. The modest emotional energy of the protest movement is no rushing tide; and as this goes on for years, the emotional mood surrounding such a regime remains stable — the most important quality of “legitimacy”.