My father had a keen sense of history, and when my parents were in Germany in the early 1930s (he had a graduate travel fellowship at the University of Berlin), he was aware of (and peripherally involved in…another story) history in the making. He also was something of a perfectionist, and carried not only his 16-mm Kodak but also a tripod and light meter all over Europe and the Middle East. I am the repository for his 1930s films, all on highly flammable nitro-based celluloid. When my parents returned to the states, he used these films and other historical material (some interesting items) for public lectures. By the time I came along, I would occasionally set up the projector so that I could show my friends our home movies of Stalin in Red Square on May Day and Hitler in his open Mercedes. I burned up much of the Hitler sequence by stopping the projector to see things better, and then Hitler would curl up before our eyes in wisps of acrid smoke. My father intended to get the “Big Three” on film, but Mussolini was out of the country when my parents were in Italy, and so we have a very nice sequence of the Italian square and balcony from which Mussolini used to deliver his harangues to the people (apparently the best possible shot available under the circumstances).
February 28, 2009
February 27, 2009
Re the financial hysteria: The real measure of our wealth is how much we’d be worth if we lost all our money.
This year the world’s largest cruise ship will be launched, a 220,000-ton behemoth for more than 6000 passengers. Why?
The other day Fran and I got into a debate about cosmology, which became particularly heated over the topic of whether we were talking about the “observable universe” or simply the “universe.” Google that distinction if you care to. So very “us.” I forget how it ended finally (certainly not resolved, but that’s not the point). I do love her so.
Some of the following comes from an online debate on the question: Why does the freest nation in the world, the United States, have the highest rate of incarceration (about 1 out of 100) in the world, compared to say Sweden (more like 1 out of 1500)? The discussants noted that it is uncertain if the U.S. can rightly claim the title of “freest” and in any case the rate of incarceration does not necessarily indicate the degree of general freedom. Freedom can be only be determined by the limits of your body, the comparative strength of those who oppose you, and your willingness to accept the consequences of your actions. One conception is that a nation will be freest when citizens are willing to, and frequently do, commit acts deemed illegal by government. In that case, the U.S. could outrank Sweden, whose citizens might be more restricted by their obedience to law than Americans are restricted by the threat of the bars of a jail cell.