Egghead Stuff Archives


July 17, 2010

Book Review: The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

Good book, with serious caveats. It was probably a bit overpraised when it was first released over a decade ago. But no one had done it before, or as well, at least in English.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 09:23 PM | Comments (1)

July 03, 2010

Declaration of Independence in modern English

Happy 4th. Updating an older effort of mine here, creating a more modern prose version of the Declaration of Independence. Unlike some other modernizations, it is not satirical, or abridged or dumbed-down for kids. In short, not intentionally funny or bad.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2010

WWII Observations: Hitler's Not-So-Evil Twin?

As part of a series of entries on World War II and its era that I am doing from a long period of research, I call your attention to a particular figure. You may know of whom I speak. Born in an Austrian town around 1890, of uncertain lineage due to paternity questions, raised by a devoutly Catholic mom, he wandered off to Vienna and then Germany in search of higher ambition. In World War One, he distinguished himself as a good soldier but grew more ambitious afterward.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2010

Coolest political party names

Were these two rival parties the coolest political party names ever ? (Well we did have the Whigs, and the British had the Roundheads).

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2009

Deep Linguistics Philosophy Question

If an unheard tree falling in the forest really doesn’t make a sound, is the absence of a word for that an illustration of onomatopoeia? Just asking.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2009

Religionphobic? Take the Quiz

You know who you are, and that you have it. Let’s name this condition with a more clinically pretentious sounding term: fideophobia (via Latin, fides, faith). Fideophobia is the hysterical fear of, or hostility towards, religious faith or those who observe one. I am not talking here about healthy skepticism, or even that Marxian ol’ time anti-religion that’s good enough for Mao. Nor do I mean hostility to specific faiths, which is something rival faith-holders can have for each other. For fideophobes I mean those who, after encountering just about any outward expression of religiosity, have a near-epileptic seizure.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:54 PM | Comments (8)

November 14, 2009

Book Review II: Like A Rolling Stone -- The Strange Life of A Tribute Band

Another in a series of scribblings about books I've read over the past months.....

Like A Rolling Stone: The Strange Life of A Tribute Band, by Steven Kurutz.

Most pleasurable book I’ve read in a long time. Well-written, amusing and sad, the author takes us on tour with various tribute bands – bands that mimic the appearance and music of more famous rock bands -- a phenomenon that took off with the imitation-Beatles Broadway show, Beatlemania. (He particularly takes us along with Sticky Fingers, a Rolling Stones tribute band). We learn often of might-have-beens, sincere musicians seeking greatness in their own right who, unable to do so, settled for the second-best option: the adulation of looking and sounding like a rock music legend. The author spends less time with, though hints at, many well-adjusted successful tribute bands who are simply in it for the fun and money, and apparently quite happy about where they are, like the all-female tribute band Lez Zeppelin. Despite some emphasis on the more interesting dark side, he happily doesn’t dwell on Deeper Cultural Meanings too much, nor trash the phenomenon. Ultimately the answer given to why these bands exist is provided by their members: it’s a lot of fun and beats just holding a regular job someplace for a few dollars an hour. The book’s a journey, not a destination, and well worth the ride.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2009

Book Review: A History of Pi

One in a series of scribblings about books I've read over the past months.....

A History of Pi, by Petr Beckmann

Couldn’t quite get through all of it but it is a mostly pleasant tour for the nerdy among us, which takes us through the history of mathematics' and mankind’s quest for that famous irrational number which defines and describes the ins and outs of the circle, via the relationships among radius/diameter and circumference and area. The author’s unapologetic politics sprinkle the text with intermittent sermons against the science-retardant aspects of Communism and Christianity. It gets a bit Ayn Randishly over the top stupid at times, but the anti-totalitarian and anti-imperial ("What have the Romans ever done for math?") perspectives give the book a unifying theme that adds readability. Surprise eureka extra factoid: Archimedes WAS the military-industrial complex of his day.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2009

World War Two Observation: Nazis Eschewed Bioweapons

Per an earlier entry in which I mentioned I would be dropping observations over here on World War II and its lead-up as derived from various research projects, here's another one.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2009

US Health Care Political Debate: The Core (ReDux)

Just narrowing down the feeling that my thoughts from a prior post are indeed confirmed, just by watching the tenor of things in this country. Here I summarize the political conflict more succinctly.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 09:02 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2009

Observations on World War Two: Nazis & Brazenness

Over the past few years, I have been lookng at media and hardcore original archival records of the period of history leading up to and including World War II. (Various personal and professional projects.) Not sure if I'll ever get to share several thoughts and discoveries - or if even sharing them are worthwhile -- but I'll dump a few here intermittently just to try them out.

Some may merely be a rediscovery of the non-original obvious. Others may report interesting (or even boring) matters that are well-known to specialists but worth an emphasis, I think.

Below is observation #1. (Observations are not in any special order, just as I come up with them.)

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 01:50 PM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2009

US Healthcare Debate: The Underlying Sensibilities

Despite my happy guilty plea to being a near-fanatic libertarian, I do not have strong feelings about the current US health care debate. Not because I heretically think my principles don't apply, it's just that no matter what happens, the economics of modern health care in the industrialized world will not cause the roof to cave in for at least a few indefinite generations, regardless of the mixed (as in US), market-based (if that ever has existed), or socialized systems that may exist.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 01:57 AM | Comments (3)

July 23, 2009

Cool Site: Make/Edit Audiobooks

Record an audiobook and fix others' recordings. Nice concept and site.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 08:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2009

Gender Differences, part 657

Just noticed over the course of a lifetime, though perhaps just in my narrow experience or my still narrower imagination, a subtle difference in how the shock-driven harrumph is expressed:

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:16 PM | Comments (3)

May 13, 2009

Lawrence Olivier - Lawrence Olivier = William Shatner

So went an old actor algebra snipe I read somewhere. Which while humorous, I do disagree. But this person here says what I want to say:

The insufferably cerebral and moralistic elements of Star Trek have been bad enough to make even devoted fans wince many, many times, and if the acting often seemed weak it might have been because so few actors can credibly recite some of the drivel generations of actors have been forced to say over the decades.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 06:40 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2009

Keynes Enabled

Keynesianism is only a few weeks into official respectability here in the superpower, and already there is self-parody. ("The idea's to stimulate the economy. So what if we blow a few billion on the wrong things? ")

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2008

Astronomers detect God (or could it be Satan?)

Sonya: “But if there is no God, then life has no meaning. Why go on living? Why not just commit suicide?”

Boris: “Well, let’s not get hysterical. I could be wrong. I’d hate to blow my brains out and then read in the papers they found something {gesturing skyward} .”

-- Love and Death (Woody Allen)

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2008

September 11, 2001 and me

Abusing my journal privileges, I add below a story I sent off in a rambling hurry to a now-defunct internet news service right after the 9/11/2001 events happened. I add new stuff in { }'s to clarify and clean up some text and background. Some good guesses, some less so. People got mad that I warned against calling the attackers cowards, something I still regard as a no-brainer. But it's easier for me, as I don't assume all courage, or even non-cowardice, is intrinsically admirable.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:38 PM | Comments (4)

July 05, 2008

The Declaration of Independence, modern edition

My belated July 4th present is an idea I have had germinating several years: rendering the US Declaration of Independence, my all-time favorite historic document, into a more modern prose and lingo, to see how it sounds . Despite my normal wise-guyish tendencies, this is not satire or sacrilege (at least not intentionally), but an exercise that might hopefully make the old document more relevant, accessible, and comprehensible. I am somewhat arbitrary; I keep some of the older language -- "men" stays as "men", "creator" as "creator" -- though the "manly firmness" line (minds out of gutter, please) I adapt to "firm steadfast". I take some liberties with editing as well. It is a work-in-progress and it is clear from the changes that the slightly antiquated inflated prose of the original has its timeless unique beauty and appropriateness, and the original language can still hold up well. (But I still have trouble with the structure and meaning of the "denounce our Separation" phrase.) And a little irony is allowed: I do get to use "military contractor" in an ironic but accurate way.


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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 09:34 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2008

Wanted: A Cure for Envy Deficiency

People work and even pray to acquire virtues. But I need a vice. A certain particular one. Forget "vice", let's use an old-fashioned word - "sin", because it's one of the classic seven deadly ones. Now, I am not short of vices, but one I do lack feels like some kind of vitamin deficiency. So I beg divine favor to give me some of that four letter word which sounds like a two-letter word: envy.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 11:53 PM | Comments (6)

May 30, 2008

Giving to Good Will

When, how, and why did George Will turn Whig from Tory? A welcome development from my perspective, and it seems several years old, the change, but I wonder how and why. Nice review of a book I need to get, too.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 01:38 AM | Comments (2)

December 09, 2007

More Brains Equals Less Happiness (with related Jumbled Thoughts on anti-Bush/anti-Jock sentiment)

Too little time to ramble appropriately. But here's a jumble of semi-related issues on nerd alienation, anti-Bushism and anti-jockism. First, the comments to this posted article on growing up brainy but inevitably unhappy are interesting, even touching (the comments are more interesting than the article). Though myself a fully formed non-jock last-picked-for-any-team somewhat "brainy" nerd, I nevertheless experienced less trauma than these folks did with "jocks" and other less eggheady types. Perhaps because the school environments I had were not too pro-jock, and were definitely pro-nerd. (That didn't stop all of the usual expected adolescent brutality and social ineptness coming my way, however). Then, I jump below to a bunch of slightly related half-formed theories here, going from the social exclusion of nerds to a distantly related political one: a working theory that alot of anti-Bush personal (not political) sentiment is fundamentally anti-jock resentment by nerds. To which discussion I append an appreciation of jocks.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 11:53 AM | Comments (11)

November 22, 2007

Kennedy Assassination, Nixon, and Coincidence

On this anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, people argue coincidences and conspiracies (pssst- there wasn't any, Oswald was all alone). But there is a story about that day that is funny in its own right, probably true, and might give rise to a nice reflection on coincidences. Richard Nixon told this account to Larry King; I cannot find it online but I recall it from a book. The story is quite plausible even if Nixon wasn't always so.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2007

Beowulf ynne thae fylmmen? Hwaet tha fukkke? Godes yrre baer.

That great hard-of-hearing epic, Beowulf, the one that actually begins with a shout of "WHAT!" (spelled Hwaet!), has made it onto the big silver mead-hall screen. A great line from one review says "as you may remember from Cliff's Notes. . . .", but your humble servant actually has read the thing in its original, um, English and always wondered how, aside from some good monsters, this drama-less one-dimensional Dark Age gangsta rap could possibly be made into a good story. I haven't seen the film yet, but I shouldn't have been surprised at Hollywood's ingenuity in that area: they made stuff up.

Continue reading "Beowulf ynne thae fylmmen? Hwaet tha fukkke? Godes yrre baer."

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 01:35 AM | Comments (4)

November 03, 2007

Safe from Pakistani worries

This just in on Pakistan: "Musharraf’s leadership is threatened by an increasingly defiant Supreme Court . . . ." Well, glad we don't face any dangers like that here in the USA.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 11:08 PM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2007

Islamic Spain Comes to DC, October 10

For those in the US capitol area, Wednesday October 10 starting 8:30 in the evening (meaning food is OK for the umma-fied), the restaurant Busboys and Poets at 2021 14th Street, is doing a film screening of CITIES OF LIGHT: THE RISE AND FALL OF ISLAMIC SPAIN. The producer Alexander Kronemer will be there. (UPDATE/CORRECTION: One can NOT tell by his very non-Muslim name how much time, effort, and money the Islamic community regularly spends on telling its own story as it appears he is indeed Muslim unlike my previous assumption (thanks, commenter Ahem); apologies to Mr Kronemer and the umma for my undue, though normally well-justified, cynicism in this area.*) Below the break is more detail.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 11:40 PM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2007

Corporate Islamofascism and Constituent Verbal Furballs

It is an accurate observation that the non-playful use of the term "Islamofascism" usually indicates that the written work which contains it emanated from some part of Idiotland, or has at least crossed its airspace. On the other side of the spectrum, to me anyway, in this day and age, once I see "corporate" used as a slur or with some kind of ominous overtone, a "here comes a rant from the other coast of Idiotland" reaction kicks in. ( I have yet to come across "corporate Islamofascism" but I am sure there is a rare neocon progressive out there nurturing it under ultraviolet light in a shoebox to use if say Wal-mart were to add Muslim prayer-time breaks for employees, although that would probably end up being "corporate dhimmitude".)

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2007

Is "The Only Good Arab is a Dead Arab" A Threat?

Having actually personally met some of the apparent victims in this situation, it pains me to say that I think they are probably wrong. Last year, a Foreign Service officer (and Georgetown Foreign Service School alumnus) emailed and voice-mailed a series of messages to individuals of the Arab-American Institute. These were "the only good Arab a dead Arab"; "they should burn in hell", etc .- type comments, and resulted in criminal charges. But to look over the whole accusation/indictment, and one ought to before judging, one can ask if there is enough here to charge Mr. Bigoted Foulmouth with a crime. After gender and time of day circumstances are considered, it may add up, but it's a close call. Without more, I'd go down on the side of free speech and say dismiss the charges unless more facts come out. (It does, nonetheless, make you wonder about State Department vetting standards.)

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:13 PM | Comments (4)

August 05, 2007

Unitary executive doctrine (for American legalo-politico-geeks only)

There is alot of hullabaloo, palaver, mishegoss, or whatever about the so-called unitary executive doctrine. Despite my minimal government libertarian orientation, both in and out of bed, and a loss of just about all faith in the Bush folks, I cannot get the ruckus. The President has all the executive power except in those areas limited by the Constitution. I still don't get the fuss over the attorney firings, he can hire whomever he wants and fire them. I think people are mixing this up with an unnamed idea that sort of says that the sovereign powers of the nation devolve onto the executive in the absence of Constitutional limits or in times that the Consitution is impracticable to enforce. This usually boils down to saying that in areas of foreign policy, and border control, the President cannot be limited. This may be Addingtonism, but it shouldn't be mixed up with the President's right to control and keep separate the Executive Branch.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:54 PM | Comments (10)

July 20, 2007

That's some clever shirt

A reader over at Hit and Run reported the existence of a t-shirt that reads:

"There are 10 types of people who understand binary:

Those who do, and those who don't."

I think that's funny.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:34 PM | Comments (10)

July 02, 2007

Ayn Rand Had Nothing to Do with it, OK?

I am a "classical liberal", a libertarian, or whatever it is. Brilliant, dumb, or neither, but just for the record: Ayn Rand had nothing to do with it, OK? Sentences like this just keep cropping up, though: "Ayn Rand, the Russian émigré novelist and philosopher who inspired more people toward a combined emotional/intellectual commitment to individual liberty than any other figure in the 20th century" or book titles like this: It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand. No, it didn't. Thank you. And "Objectivism" is stupid too.

Posted by Matthew Hogan at 04:34 AM | Comments (9)

June 24, 2007

Grand Conspiracy Theories Are Dumb

{Taking advantage of my journal privileges, apropos of nothing, I run and update an old essay of mine.} Acting alone, and for egotistical and political reasons, Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and a Dallas police officer in November 1963. On September 11, 2001, disciples of Osama bin-Laden, a maverick Islamist theocrat, crashed themselves and hundreds of others into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because they believed America to be their enemy, and Americans to be evil. Rumsfeld, the CIA, the Mossad, Unocal, and so forth, whatever their many sins, did not do it.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:44 PM | Comments (7)

May 12, 2007

Existence: A Parable

Written under the combined inspiration of some thoughts of our Site-mistress, a reading of the Book of Revelation, a cool old Twilight Zone episode, and indigestion. A pre-emptive astaghfir'llah to all.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 10:03 AM | Comments (6)

January 01, 2007

Pithing on the Profit Motive: Markets and Incentives

The ever-quotable Jim Henley gives a nice pithy explanation of the inherent values of the profit motive. That such common sense advantages and incentves of free market economics need to be restated for intelligent and well-meaning human beings is cause for existential sadness. That I myself cannot express it so well only adds to the despair. In any event, this is why markets do better, not utopian -- just better.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2006

D.C. area event on Iran policy

D.C.-area folks with a US-Iran interest might want to attend, next Monday morning, a CATO Institute forum on Iran policy (details below break). Movers and shakers and insiders on the wonk-level will be there, and it is free with (I think) a free lunch. The event coincides with a new CATO paper by Justin Logan on the subject, which concludes that "the United States should begin taking steps immediately to prepare for a policy of deterrence should an Iranian bomb come online in the future. As undesirable as such a situation would be, it appears less costly than striking Iran [militarily]."

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 03:57 PM | Comments (4)

November 15, 2006

Eddie Said: Speaking Ill of the Dead

The late Edward Said helped turned me into a reassessor of the Near East and its people. No, not Orientalism, which I only (pretended to) read a few years ago. It was more the outcroppings of common sense amidst the lefty hyperintellectual verbiage - the Edward Said who was basically saying "quit calling me camel jockey, and give me my home back, and evaluate people's behavior as you would your own." One finds this in Covering Islam (which did influence me) and various parts of his writings over the years. Along now comes an author to trash Orientalism, with Said dead and all. Michael Dirda from the Washington Post summarizes the allegations, selected below.

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Posted by Matthew Hogan at 06:45 PM | Comments (5)