Radical or Gradual Reform?

July 2, 2009 @ 3:38 pm · Filed under Culture

By temperament, I am a conservative. By conservative, I mean that I believe that society and institutions are difficult to change successfully, and that, in general, things are better left alone. Having said that, I do believe that radical reform is much more likely to be successful than incremental. To my mind, the chances of fixing a fundamentally, broken system by making a series of small changes is low. Now, I find myself in the happy situation of having my prejudice in favor of drastic reform confirmed by a scholarly study. In a study of the effects of the civil reforms imposed across Europe by the French Revolutionary armies, four economists have found that in those areas where the most drastic changes were made from past practice, the greatest economic growth subsequently occurred. You can find a good summary of the study at The Economist’s View in a post titled The Consequences of External Reform: Lessons from the French Revolution.

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J. G. Ballard

April 19, 2009 @ 7:26 pm · Filed under Culture

J. G. Ballard died today aged 78. Ballard was one of the most innovative writers of the Sixties. He shared with Philip K. Dick an awareness of the fragility of normality, and expressed it powerfully in all he wrote. As a teenager, Concrete Island and Crash had a profound effect on me. Later, my favorite work of Ballard’s became the short story collection The Terminal Beach. Although Ballard’s later work became increasingly repetitive, I still consider him one of the greatest writers of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Rest in Peace, J. G. Ballard.

Here’s a good obituary.

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The Keene Act And You!

February 7, 2009 @ 4:40 pm · Filed under Culture

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Wrestlers Talk About The Wrestler

February 4, 2009 @ 8:31 pm · Filed under Culture

I saw the movie The Wrestler the other day, and I was blown away by the quality of Mickey Rourke’s acting. Here’s a clip of some wrestlers talking about the movie:

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Some Books I Read In January

January 31, 2009 @ 3:17 pm · Filed under Culture

The Painter of Battles: A Novel. Perez-Reverte’s latest and darkest of novels.

Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich A collection of four essays dealing with the events around the fall of Berlin and the death of Hitler.

In the Bunker with Hitler: 23 July 1944-29 April 1945. Despite being an eyewitness account, adds almost nothing to our knowledge of the last days of Hitler.

The Halo Effect: … and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers. Great book on how a company’s success colors the analysis of it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton. Classic book on how logistics controls military success and failure.

The Road to War: The Origins of World War II. Series of essays that, country by country, describes the path to war. Very good chapters on France and England.

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Wheels of Steel by Saxon

January 23, 2009 @ 1:43 pm · Filed under Culture

I used to play this song over and over and over. Come to think of it, I still do.

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Some History I Read Over My Christmas Vacation

January 4, 2009 @ 2:00 pm · Filed under Culture

The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. Definitive account of the Nazi economy.

Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II (Blue Jacket Bks). Convincingly argues that Stalin was planning an offensive against Germany timed for late 1941.

Chamberlain and the Lost Peace. About as good a case as can be made defending Chamberlain’s foreign policy.

Hitler and Appeasement: The British Attempt to Prevent the Second World War. Good assessment of the politics of appeasement in the 1930s.

The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana. Overly nostalgic, but biting attack on what new labor has wrought.

Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted. Argues that Hitler could have won the war in the East by concentrating on Moscow. Neglects logistics and ultimately unconvincing.

There’s actually a thread that connects all these, and I’ll write a longer post on the subject later.

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How We Got Here

November 15, 2008 @ 10:07 am · Filed under Culture

Michael Lewis, the author of a great book about Wall Street in the 8o’s called Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, has written an article for Portfolio that everyone should read if they want to understand the roots of today’s financial crisis. As he notes in the article’s introduction:

[Since the 80’s, I’ve been] waiting for the end of Wall Street. The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility.

Until, eventually, it all fell apart. Read The End, and learn.

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Iron Maiden 1986 Tour

November 10, 2008 @ 5:37 pm · Filed under Culture

As I mentioned in a previous post, I saw Judas Priest on their 1986 tour. At the concert I saw, Iron Maiden opened for them. So, here’s a video from that year’s Maiden tour:

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Judas Priest – Green Manalishi in 1986

November 1, 2008 @ 8:40 am · Filed under Culture

Green Manalishi is my favorite Judas Priest song. It’s actually a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song that they originally recorded on Hell Bent For Leather. Here’s a video of the song from the 1986 tour which I saw in the Worcester Centrum. I still have the shirt.

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