The Battle Is Joined!

Here in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, we're just now starting to think about the upcoming Congressional elections. There are a couple of candidates on the Democratic side, and a challenger on the Republican side, but up to now the incumbent, Bill Sali, hadn't bothered to activate his campaign website. Now he has... and it's a thing of beauty.

What makes it so special? Well, although he doesn't allow comments and likely won't answer any questions (just like in his last campaign) he for some reason has decided to join various social networking sites that do allow comments (like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr). I'm sure he's got them moderated, but it's still great for his constituents to see how Emily thinks he's the "best boss ever. :)" -- you can't get that kind of thing on a boring campaign website.

While I'll be keeping a close eye on Congressman Sali's continuing efforts to "keep it real" with the younger generation, I'll personally be supporting Larry Grant for Congress in 2008 as the kind of economically conservative, socially moderate Representative that Idaho needs.

Bubblehead Predicts The Future II

In honor of Leap Day, I hereby provide you with a sneak peak of a story that will be near the top of the Cranial-Ocular Implant Newsflash (COIN) menus on February 28, 2100:

"Thousands of New Centenarians Don't Have Birthday to Celebrate"

For the first time in history, people will not be able to celebrate their 100th birthday on the actual anniversary of the day they were born. Because leaps years occur every four years, unless the year is divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400, the survivors from among the 350,000 people worldwide born on February 29, 2000, don't have a February 29th in 2100 on which to celebrate their birthday. The last time this happened was in Febrary 1700, but there weren't any people who lived to be 100 back then. (In the same way, there probably weren't any 100 year olds who missed their birthdays when countries omitted 11 days from the calendar at various times when they converted to the Gregorian calendar.)

Bottom line -- some 8 year old having their 2nd birthday celebration today won't get to celebrate their 25th birthday until they're 104.

Men And Women, Differences Between, Illustrated

My keyring has about 8 keys and one of my dogtags; very minimalist and functional. Here's what my wife's keyring looks like:

How many actual keys do you see amongst the extraneous stuff on the ring?

Floyd Matthews Passes, Was Oldest Living Submariner

Back in 2006, I wrote about Floyd Matthews, who at the time was said to be the 2nd oldest living submariner. He passed away this week in Alabama, aged 105; his memorial service is today. I'm happy to see that the Patriot Guard will be there, and at his internment tomorrow at the Pensacola National Cemetary.

From the announcement of his passing on the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc. website:
Drum Base & SVWWII member Floyd Matthews of Florence AL departed on Eternal Patrol Sunday, February 24th 2008.
Floyd qualified on the USS S-44 (SS-155) in 1925. He was the oldest member of USSVI and celebrated his 105th birthday on February 3rd.
Arrangements are being made for Floyd to be buried at Barrancas National Cemetery, NAS Pensacola, in the coming week.
Although Floyd joined the Navy in WWI to fight the Hun, he was too late to get to Germany before Armistice Day. Floyd later volunteered for the Submarine Service, serving in boats without names, identified by Letter & Number only; i.e. O-6, S-12, S-4, R-13, O-4, R-14, S-43, & S-46.
Although eligible for retirement prior to the out break of hostilities in Europe in WWII, Floyd remained in the Navy and subsequently accepted a commission.
During WWII, among other assignments, he served as Commanding Officer of USS Chickasaw ATF-83 and USS Diver ARS-5. Floyd attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander prior to his retirement in 1949.
Floyd is preceded in death by two wives and is survived, among others, by his son John and Daughter Priscilla.
Bill Matthews asked me to "thank all your fellow submariners for all they've done for "Skipper" over the past many years. The family will never forget their kindness."
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in rememberance of 'Skipper' to the US Submarine Veterans Charitable Foundation, PO Box 3870, Silverdale WA 98383 or via the internet...
Sailor, Rest Your Oar...

I'm assuming that LCDR Matthews was the oldest living submariner by the time he passed, and not just the oldest USVVI member. Does anyone know who takes the mantle from Floyd as the oldest living submariner?

Mk 48 Torpedo -- Not Just For Skimmers

All submariners enjoy seeing a surface ship blown in half by a well-placed torpedo, but sometimes we forget that the Mk 48 is also effective against submarines. Poking around the 'net looking for information on the Navy's recently-released 5 year SINKEX plan, I found (here, here, here, and here) video of the torpedoing of USS Sailfish (SS 572) by my old boat USS Topeka (SSN 754) in May 2007. All the videos I found were in a .wmv format, so I uploaded it to YouTube for ease of viewing:

Personally, I think that being the target of a SINKEX is one of the most honorable ways for a retired warship to end her life -- she helps train the next generation of Sailors, and provides a home to marine life.

Back to the Navy scrapping list, the only surprise I saw is that they expect to scrap USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) within the next five years; she's still in commission, so it'll be a rush job (considering some of the other boats coming up for scrapping have been decomm'd since the mid-'90s).

(Non-sub related postscript: While I was uploading the video to YouTube, I figured I might as well post the old video of my cat Hercules molesting blankets.)

Submarines On ('Net) Parade!

After checking out bothenook's latest Submarine Blogger Roundup, you should check out all the submarine stories and pictures that popped up on the official Navy website in the last couple of days. The CNO visited snowy Groton, and here's the pictures to prove it! There's also a story on the delivery of PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) to the Navy; the story mentions that the boat will be commissioned in Wilmington, N.C., on May 3, 2008. (The Mom of one of my old Topeka shipmates is the sponsor, so that's pretty cool.)

The Navy website also has a couple examples of submarine pictures that bring me mixed emotions -- Groton-based boats covered in snow. They've got one of USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) here, and here's one of USS Alexandria (SSN 757):

Why do these pictures bring me mixed emotions? Well, I feel sorry for the Submariners who have to put up with the snow, but I'm happy I don't have to be stationed in Groton during the winter anymore.

Bubblehead's Best Picture Bonanza!

By (mostly) staying awake through "Michael Clayton" last night, I completed, for the first time in my life, the Oscar Best Picture quintfecta -- seeing all five movies nominated for "Best Picture" before the Academy Awards are presented. This gives me the right -- nay, the responsibility -- to give to you one guy's rankings of the Best Picture nominees.

Note that this list isn't generated from the perspective of an artsy-fartsy person who worries about "nuance" and "exploring themes of identity and alienation from an uncaring society". I don't care that much about a film's politics, unlike those who don't like "Juno" because the girl in the movie didn't actually get an abortion, thereby trying to foist heteronormative, patriarchal notions on impressionable teens. I want my movies to entertain me, and if they make me think, that's a bonus.

That being said, here's how I rank this year's nominees:

1) "No Country For Old Men": This movie had some of the most suspenseful scenes I've seen in a movie since "Silence of the Lambs". The acting was great, and while the movie never really explained how Tommy Lee Jones' sheriff became such a coward, it had enough character background that I could appreciate everyone else's motivations. Not quite good enough to get 5 Self-Treated Gunshot Wounds out of five, it did get a solid 4.

2) "Juno": A smart, funny film that provides depth for the characters with minimal hand-waving. As such, it'll never win, but it's the only one I'd consider buying on DVD. Gets a solid 4 Overtrained Thinclads out of five.

3) "Michael Clayton": Since this is the last of the movies I saw, I was thinking much more about Oscar-worthiness with this one than any of the others. To paraphrase the Princeton recruiter in "Risky Business": "Your storyline is respectable, you've got some solid acting, but it's not quite Oscar League, now is it". A decent movie that gets 3 Slimy Lawyers out of five.

The last two movies I'd reviewed previously:

4) "There Will Be Blood": Another decent movie that didn't really stick out in my mind. It's one of those where I'm glad I saw it once, and if I ever see it in the TV listings, I can't imagine I'd want to watch it again.

99 gazillion to the bazillionth power) "Atonement": Even thinking about this movie for a short time makes me more and more pissed off. If film people are trying to be so "Green", they should kick the makers of this travesty out of the business for wasting perfectly good film stock. It sucked that bad. Of course, that mean's it'll probably win.

Identify This Submarine!

A while back I made fun of people who theorized that Israeli submarines were standing off the coast of Iran ready to attack; I pointed out that diesel boats would take a long time to circumnavigate Africa, and would be seen if they went through the Suez Canal. I bring this up because I now have proof that people along the Suez do in fact notice submarines driving by; the only problem is, they don't have very good submarine identification skills.

Check out this video posted yesterday on YouTube; the caption describes it as an "American Submarine Going to iraq in a secret mission caught by mobile camera in Egypt":

So, what kind of sub do you think it really is? I'm guessing a British Swiftsure-class boat, most likely HMS Superb (S 109).

The Chinese Media Lies About U.S. Submarines!

Here's an interesting tidbit from China's Xinhua news agency about the visit of USS Ohio (SSGN 726) to Pusan, South Korea:

SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. nuclear-powered submarine Ohio arrived in South Korea's southeastern port city of Busan on Wednesday to join the upcoming joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States, the U.S. Force Korea (USFK) said in a news release.
"The USS Ohio, a U.S. guided missile submarine, is in port Busan. The Ohio is taking part in a routine port visit in conjunction with the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle Exercise 2008," said the news release.
It is the first visit of the U.S. nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea since late 2005.
[Emphasis mine] So, that last little piece of information is clearly wrong; why would the official Chinese government press agency put it out? There are a few possible explanations:

1) Instead of "the submarine" they meant "a submarine", and they want to make it look to their readers that the U.S. is escalating the pressure on their North Korean allies, laying the groundwork for when the North Korean media puts out their government's inevitable tirade against American aggression that they promise to defeat by use of the "glorious Army-First Policy".
2) They do their research by typing in phrases into Google like "U.S. submarine visit Korea" and just relying on the first link that comes up.
3) They used this Korea Times article as a source, and misunderstood the part about "(i)t is the first trip to South Korea by the USS Ohio since the former Trident-class vessel underwent a near two-year conversion until late 2005..."

Since I subscribe to the axiom that errors are normally due to incompetence rather than intentional planning, I'm going with option #2 or #3.

Video Of The Navy Missile / Satellite Collision

Once again, the Navy comes to the rescue:

While I for one don't completely buy the "we only did it because of the hydrazine" explanation, I think it was a great test. Hopefully we got some good data to help us predict how the Standard Missile might do against satellites in slightly higher orbits if it's ever needed for such a mission.

Northwest Meteor Puts On A Show

I understand the math, but it still amazes me how bright meteors can seem from a long distance. Check out this video from the National Guard Base just south of Boise of a meteor that lit up the sky over the northwest yesterday:

Looks pretty close, huh? By most reports, though, it actually flamed out over eastern Washington, a couple hundred miles northwest of here.

Update 0808 21 Feb: What with the meteor, last night's lunar eclipse, and this morning's 6.3 earthquake a couple hundred miles south of here, can you imagine what superstitious people would have been thinking had all these things happened a couple hundred years ago in such a short period of time?

Not Feeling Very Politically Correct

While not minimizing the apparent tragic loss of the crew of the fishing boat struck by the Japanese destroyer JDS Atago (DDG 177), I can't help but wonder if the Japanese government will be as upset with a Japanese surface ship colliding with a Japanese fishing boat as they were with an American submarine surfacing under one back in 2001.

Better Use Of Tax Dollars Than Some Real Programs

From the satirical website The Onion:
The U.S. Navy announced Monday that field tests of a cool new "ping" sound, a $3 billion project in development since the Cold War, have been an overwhelming success. "The Navy will begin retrofitting all destroyers, supercarriers, and nuclear submarines with the new sound immediately," said chief of naval operations Admiral Gary Roughead, who described the sound as "like a metallic-y sonar blip, but kind of loud like a torpedo siren." "We are extremely proud to continue the fine naval tradition of cool, important-sounding noises."...
I totally want a .wav file with that sound...

Yvan Eht Nioj

In recruiting new Sailors, the Navy has to go where potential recruits are, which nowadays means YouTube. Here's one of the newest videos the Navy put up on its own YouTube Channel:

Personally, I like it; there's nothing wrong with using a little humor to get someone to check out your website. What do you think? And what elements would you like to see in Navy Submarine recruiting videos? (I had some ideas back in 2005 I think might still work.)

USS Ohio Subjected To Media Availability

Normally a deployment is a time when a submarine's crew can actually go out submarining without a bunch of extraeous passengers (except, of course, at the end when you get Squadron riders to help with exam preps). Unfortunately, if you're a new type of submarine and are doing something newsworthy, like the first SSGN deployment, it looks like the Sub Force still loads you up with riders. This apparently happened to USS Ohio (SSGN 726) recently, as this article from a Canadian paper shows:
The sub's cruise across the Pacific comes as China builds its submarine fleet into the region's largest as part of the bulking up of its military. The voyage is the Ohio's first deployment since the makeover, and Hale is in the odd position of showing the ship off.
It's odd because the sub is all about stealth.
Hale can't talk about where the ship is going. The back of the ship, where the nuclear power plant is located, is off limits. The leader of the SEAL commando contingent aboard can't be named, and the commandos themselves can't be photographed in any way that shows their faces.
But, over the next few months, the Ohio will be making a very public statement, training intensively in some of the world's most crowded and contested waters and joining in exercises with America's Asian allies. Instead of hiding them, the Ohio will be showcasing its abilities to elude detection and operate too deeply and quickly to be tracked.
It's pretty much just a standard article where a reporter who doesn't know too much about submarines tries to explain them to an audience who doesn't either, but it's not the worst I've seen. And I'm sure the men of the Ohio would choose a reporter every day over hosting ORSE board Members. ("Board" intentionally left lower-case because it always pissed me off how they always made sure "Board" was capitalized in their reports, e.g. "Contrary to the NPEB Precepts Letter, the ship did not provide in a timely fashion the 8 Ham Sandwiches and 2 rolls of extra-soft toilet paper requested by the Board; additionally, the sanitary facilities made available for the exclusive use of the Board did not include sufficient quantities of soft-core porn and hand moisturizer.")

New Russian Boomer Finally Hits The Water

Back in April 2007, the Russians announced that they had "launched" their first new SSBN since the fall of the Soviet Union, the RFS Yuri Dolgorukii. To everyone's amusement, the announcements of the "launch" indicated that the boat would go out to sea in October of last year, even though the sub was only 82% complete at the time.

It turns out the Russians apparently have a different definition of "launched" than most navies; it's been announced that she finally made it into the water for the first time yesterday. For those interested, here are some pictures of the original "launch", which apparently involved moving the sub from the construction building to a drydock.

At this rate, we're not going to get any pictures taken from one of our periscopes until 2011 or so.

Submariner Vs. Moonbats

Chap interacts with a 9/11 Truther. Hilarity ensues.

Russian Provide Valuable Training For U.S. Navy

Lots of people are saying tension between the U.S. and Russia is on the increase, and that may be so. Still, it's nice that the Russians will still go out of their way to provide great training opportunities for U.S. forces:
The bombers were among four Russian Tupolev 95s launched from Ukrainka in the middle of the night, including one that Japanese officials say violated their country's airspace over an uninhabited island south of Tokyo.
U.S. officials tracked and monitored the bombers as two flew south along the Japanese coast, and two others flew farther east, coming closer to the Nimitz and the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton.
As the bombers got about 500 miles out from the U.S. ships, four F/A-18 fighters were launched from the Nimitz, the official said. The fighters intercepted the Russian bombers about 50 miles south of the Nimitz.
At least two U.S. F/A-18 Hornets trailed the bomber as it came in low over the Nimitz twice, while one or two of the other U.S. fighters followed the second bomber as it circled.
The pilot that flew near the carrier seems to have been especially eager to help American Sailors with some lookout quals. Since a Bear in wartime would never want to get very close to their target (but instead launch stand-off weapons and get the heck out of Dodge) it's clear that they weren't training for their own sake -- they were just trying to help out their American friends. Plus, giving the F/A-18 pilots an extended amount of time to practice getting into attack position against a slowly-moving target was very nice of the Russian.

Remember when the Russian submarines used to come out and provide target services for our boats? I wish they'd start doing that again -- there's no better training than having a fire control solution locked onto a potential adversary while he has no clue that you're there.

Update 0722 13 Feb: Here's a picture of a Hornet escorting the Bear during the encounter:

Other pictures are here and here. I guess the articles can't say that the incident is "secret" anymore if the Navy website is publishing pictures of the exercise.


This, my 900th posting in what will be exactly three and a half years of blogging one week from today, will simply remark upon a mystery.

Or "mystery-lanche"!

I recently saw from my traffic counter that on January 30th, I got about 500 visits and 800 page views -- about ten times normal daily traffic!

I didn't notice that, however, until several days went by, and the free statcounter only keeps info on the last 100 visits, so I have no idea where they came from and what they were reading! And nobody left any comments to give a clue what they were reading. I wish I knew who posted a link here, and to what.

Or maybe, but less likely, everyone just was interested in the electoral college and found me by googling about it (one of my perrenial high-traffic google-search postings), because of Super Tuesday perhaps?

Oddly, the same thing happened about a year ago in December 2006 -- the reason also still a mystery!


This piece at Huffpo speculates Bolton may be in line to be Secretary of State in a possible McCain administration.
Would embattled former UN ambassador John Bolton have a place in John McCain's presidential cabinet?

The idea was brewing beneath the veneer of Bolton's address to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

Revealing information that he said had never before been made public, Bolton discussed how McCain secretly tried to shepherd his nomination to the United Nations -- a nomination that was held up in Congress over Bolton's controversial anti-UN statements and policies.

"He was very active behind the scenes," said Bolton, who was ultimately sent to the UN via a presidential recess appointment. "He thought I was the type of ambassador that ought to represent the United States at the United Nations."

Addressing an audience already skeptical of McCain's presidential nomination, Bolton offered a defense of the senator.
Of course, I think that would be AWESOME to have Bolton back! And with Rudy as Attorney General...well I can dream!

Of course, Huffpo was presenting this as something dreadful and scary! I was amused by the comments left be readers. This criticism in particular is telling:
Bolton is supposed to be a smart guy. Apparently he did well at a top school. It is really difficult to tell how smart these ideologues are because they so rarely seem to think for themselves. Bolton's opinions, as are Scalia's, are always highly predictable and show little influence by real world events.
So funny!

So apparently, thinking for yourself means changing your views to conform with popular opinion which is swept along in knee-jerk response to "real world events", i.e. MSM news headlines!

Having "highly predictable" views couldn't possibly be due to having a well-developed personal philosophy, could it now?

DEVO 1978

October 14, 1978.

Watching Saturday Night Live, of all things, changed my life that night!

First Devo performed this:


As an 11-year-old, I was very impressed.

And then they topped it off with this -- remember spuds, this is 1978!!!

When the music charts were dominated by Andy Gibb and the Bee Gees with hits like Stayin' Alive. Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton John, Debbie Boone!

This SNL appearance includes a short film intro:

Are We Not Men?

Submarines Did Not Cause The Internet Cable Breaks

As I mentioned earlier, I've been wondering how to address conspiracy theorists who claim a U.S. submarine -- specifically my old boat USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) -- was behind the recent breaking of submerged internet cables in the Middle East. I've figured out how to do it -- by stipulating to the tinfoil hatter's assumption that USS Jimmy Carter has the ability to tap into underwater cables, and then showing logically why they didn't do it, even if they could have.

First let's take care of the easiest one -- that USS Jimmy Carter is responsible for, or will take advantage of, the recent cable breaks. (One theory I've seen is that the cables were broken by some non-specialized ship, and that Carter will attach the "black box" at some other location so as not to be detected.) USS Jimmy Carter was in port in Bangor as recently as January 17th, and one 'net commenter reported that they could see the boat inport on Thursday from the ferry. One might wonder why a submarine blogger would go out on a limb and only use an Internet commenter as a source for his "fact" when he probably has friends still on the boat, and could just contact them to find out if the boat is still in port. One might then consider that there must be a reason said sub-blogger is so confident that the boat is still in port. Seeing that it's about 10,000 miles from Bangor to the Med (unless you go through the Bering Straits in January) it would be very problematic for the Carter to get there between January 17th and when the cables started getting cut in late January.

So if the Carter didn't do it, did another U.S. submarine? Let's look at motive. Some say that the U.S. did it to stop the opening of an Iranian Oil Bourse that's been threatened for years -- apparently, this will destroy the U.S. economy by trading in Euros instead of dollars. The reasons why such a market wouldn't destroy the U.S. economy are so simple that even a KOSsack can understand them. Others say it was a prelude to an attack on Iran -- an attack that apparently got called off, because Iran never really lost Internet connectivity.

Suppose we were trying to tap the cables? What the hell good would that do? These aren't voice cables, like the ones we supposedly tapped in the Sea of O and described in Blind Man's Bluff. These are packet data cables. An Internet connectivity "pipe" would carry literally terabytes of data -- more than you could store in some black box undersea. Besides, Internet traffic gets routed all over the world; a good part of it probably comes through U.S. or UK servers anyway. It just doesn't make any sense to "tap" an undersea Internet cable -- there's just too much data that's too easily available by other means.

The fact is, undersea internet cables break on the average of once every three days. Statistically, you're going to have a cluster of such breaks once in a while. It's especially not a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy when they find the anchor that cut one of the cables... unless you believe the Carter left that behind to fool the gullible. If you believe that, I've got some options on the Iranian Oil Bourse to sell you.

Darn You, Hannah Montana!

Lots of good movies are scheduled to come out this year, but one I've really been anticipating is U2 3D. It was supposed to come out here in the Boise area next Friday, but now I hear it's being pushed back a week. There's only one explanation for this travesty -- the 3D theaters are currently filled with screaming tweens watching the Hannah Montana concert movie.

While there's no doubt that the U2 movie will be infinitely superior to the "Achey-Breaky Daughter" flick, Disney is keeping us from seeing good concert footage by "deciding" to extend the "planned" one week run of their annoying film. This sucks!

In better movie news, I did see "Fool's Gold" tonight, and liked it. It didn't technically count as a "chick flick" because there were explosions and guns, but it's still a good date movie. As far as treasure-hunting movies go, I'd put it in the same league as the original "National Treasure" , and way better than the sequel.

Update 1901 22 Feb: I saw U2 3D this afternoon; it totally rocked. They didn't do much with the 3D, but the music was still incredible. I think it's probably the best concert film I've ever seen.

Why Art Turned Ugly

An interesting and illuminating essay by a philosophy professor found via LGF links, on Why Art Became Ugly:
For a long time critics of modern and postmodern art have relied on the "Isn't that disgusting" strategy. By that I mean the strategy of pointing out that given works of art are ugly, trivial, or in bad taste, that "a five-year-old could have made them," and so on. And they have mostly left it at that. The points have often been true, but they have also been tiresome and unconvincing—and the art world has been entirely unmoved. Of course, the major works of the twentieth-century art world are ugly. Of course, many are offensive. Of course, a five-year old could in many cases have made an indistinguishable product. Those points are not arguable—and they are entirely beside the main question. The important question is: Why has the art world of the twentieth-century adopted the ugly and the offensive? Why has it poured its creative energies and cleverness into the trivial and the self-proclaimedly meaningless?
Where could art go after death of modernism? Postmodernism did not go, and has not gone, far. It needed some content and some new forms, but it did not want to go back to classicism, romanticism, or traditional realism.

As it had at the end of the nineteenth century, the art world reached out and drew upon the broader intellectual and cultural context of the late 1960s and 1970s. It absorbed the trendiness of Existentialism's absurd universe, the failure of Positivism's reductionism, and the collapse of socialism's New Left. It connected to intellectual heavyweights such as Thomas Kuhn, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, and it took its cue from their abstract themes of antirealism, deconstruction, and their heightened adversarial stance to Western culture. From those themes, postmodernism introduced four variations on modernism.

First, postmodernism re-introduced content—but only self-referential and ironic content. As with philosophical postmodernism, artistic postmodernism rejected any form of realism and became anti-realist. Art cannot be about reality or nature—because, according to postmodernism, "reality" and "nature" are merely social constructs. All we have are the social world and its social constructs, one of those constructs being the world of art. So, we may have content in our art as long as we talk self-referentially about the social world of art.

Secondly, postmodernism set itself to a more ruthless deconstruction of traditional categories that the modernists had not fully eliminated. Modernism had been reductionist, but some artistic targets remained.
Saint Phalle's Venus links us to the third postmodern strategy. Postmodernism allows one to make content statements as long as they are about social reality and not about an alleged natural or objective reality and—here is the variation—as long as they are narrower race/class/sex statements rather than pretentious, universalist claims about something called The Human Condition. Postmodernism rejects a universal human nature and substitutes the claim that we are all constructed into competing groups by our racial, economic, ethnic, and sexual circumstances. Applied to art, this postmodern claim implies that there are no artists, only hyphenated artists: black-artists, woman-artists, homosexual-artists, poor-Hispanic-artists, and so on.
The fourth and final postmodern variation on modernism is a more ruthless nihilism. The above, while focused on the negative, are still dealing with important themes of power, wealth, and justice toward women. How can we eliminate more thoroughly any positivity in art? As relentlessly negative as modern art has been, what has not been done?
The heyday of postmodernism in art was the 1980s and 90s. Modernism had become stale by the 1970s, and I suggest that postmodernism has reached a similar dead-end, a What next? stage. Postmodern art was a game that played out within a narrow range of assumptions, and we are weary of the same old, same old, with only minor variations. The gross-outs have become mechanical and repetitive, and they no longer gross us out.

So, what next?

It is helpful to remember that modernism in art came out of a very specific intellectual culture of the late nineteenth century, and that it has remained loyally stuck in those themes. But those are not the only themes open to artists, and much has happened since the end of the nineteenth century.

We would not know from the world of modern art that average life expectancy has doubled since Edvard Munch screamed. We would not know that diseases that routinely killed hundreds of thousands of newborns each year have been eliminated. Nor would we know anything about the rising standards of living, the spread of democratic liberalism, and emerging markets.

We are brutally aware of the horrible disasters of National Socialism and international Communism, and art has a role in keeping us aware of them. But we would never know from the world of art the equally important fact that those battles were won and brutality was defeated.

And entering even more exotic territory, if we knew only the contemporary art world we would never get a glimmer of the excitement in evolutionary psychology, Big Bang cosmology, genetic engineering, the beauty of fractal mathematics—and the awesome fact that humans are the kind of being that can do all those exciting things.

Artists and the art world should be at the edge. The art world is now marginalized, in-bred, and conservative. It is being left behind, and for any self-respecting artist there should be nothing more demeaning than being left behind.
The point is not that there are no negatives out there in the world for art to confront, or that art cannot be a means of criticism. There are negatives and art should never shrink from them. My argument is with the uniform negativity and destructiveness of the art world. When has art in the twentieth century said anything encouraging about human relations, about mankind's potential for dignity, and courage, about the sheer positive passion of being in the world?

Artistic revolutions are made by a few key individuals. At the heart of every revolution is an artist who achieves originality. A novel theme, a fresh subject, or the inventive use of composition, figure, or color marks the beginning of a new era. Artists truly are gods: they create a world in their work, and they contribute to the creation of our cultural world.
The point is not to return to the 1800s or to turn art into the making of pretty postcards. The point is about being a human being who looks at the world afresh. In each generation there are only a few who do that at the highest level. That is always the challenge of art and its highest calling.
See the whole thing for examples and further development of that thesis.

Submarines And Goats -- A Checkered History

It seems the British Submarine Force has been using goats in experiments on submarine escape -- experiments that have now been completed:
The Ministry of Defence says it will abandon deep-diving experiments which involve inducing decompression sickness in live goats.
The animals were used to see what the likely risk of "the bends" would be following escape from a submarine at varying depths under water.
The information would help crews judge whether it would be safer to abandon a stricken vessel or wait to be rescued.
Animal rights campaigners say the move will "end decades of animal suffering".
Lest there be anyone out there who thinks that Submariners only like abusing goats, it turns out that there's a long history of friendship between goats and submariners:

The Mideast Submerged Internet Cable Breaks, The USS Jimmy Carter, And The Submarine Blogger

I've been following the story of the submarine cable breaks off the coasts of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula for the last week or so, and wondering when some conspiracy theorists would start claiming that U.S. submarines had something to do with them. Dave at The Galloping Beaver, who's written intelligently before about submarines, jumped the shark in bringing up the alleged special abilities of my old boat USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) in wondering if she might have been responsible for the breaks (earning a link from uber-tinfoil site WRH, which in itself is enough for realists to figure out that Dave is on the wrong track).

Here's where it gets tricky for a submarine blogger, especially one who's served on the boat in question. Even if one were to assume that Carter has any of the capabilities discussed (which I certainly don't), classification issues make it difficult to bring all your weapons to bear, so to speak, if one would like to refute the misconceptions presented in a post like that. Sure, you could bring up time/distance issues to prove that one boat couldn't have been in all these places on the dates involved. Also, assuming you knew that the Carter was pierside in Bangor recently enough that she couldn't possibly be in that part of the world, you could mention that. Anything else is problematic.

Anyway, I'll try to put something together that shows why it's very unlikely that American submarines were involved in the cable breaks over the next few days. Until then, please use caution in the comments.

Update 1046 09 Feb 2008: Well, this comment thread certainly went off topic -- not that I mind, because I enjoy the free flow of information exchange between all submariners. For those interested, my promised "analysis" of the cable issue is here.

Super Duper Tuesday

Idaho Democrats will be caucusing today (Republicans don't vote until the end of May), and Sen. Obama should get over 2/3 of the vote statewide. As an Idaho Democrat who's supporting John McCain for President, I'm not sure who I'd caucus for (assuming I was able to get off work) -- I want the Democrats to nominate the candidate most likely to get beat by Sen. McCain, but I can't bring myself to vote for someone, even in a futile situation, who seems to be willing to say anything that they think anyone wants to hear to get elected (like Sen. Clinton, or Mitt Romney on the Republican side). I guess that'll leave me in the Mike Gravel camp tonight if I'm able to make it.

Update 2308 05 Feb: I didn't end up getting off work early enough to make it to the caucus (which is just as well, since they didn't even let you vote for Mike Gravel), but it looks like Sen. Obama did even better here in Idaho than I thought he would -- he's getting about 76% of the vote statewide, and got all the delegates from here in Ada County.

The Great Qual Card Of Life

My first Engineer on USS Topeka (who went on to command USS Newport News) used to tell me that every challenge was just "another sig on the Great Qual Card Of Life". I really like that concept -- every new thing you do, whether it's good or bad, is another chance to demonstrate proficiency in the human condition. It made it easier to take when, for instance, I was reviewing admin for ORSE and discovered I'd done 12 of the boat's 24 reactor shutdowns that year -- I got another sig on my Qual Card for "getting boned".

Even out of the Navy, I like to apply the same concept. So what sigs am I still missing? Some of them (death of an immediate family member) I've avoided so far, and hope to keep avoiding for a long time. Some others - attend a Super Bowl, take a trip to Alaska (the last state I haven't visited yet) - are fairly long term. It's something I'll be working on 'til I get the Last Sig and, if my religious beliefs are right, head off to the Final Qual Board of the hereafter. Until then, I'll keep plugging away, trying to avoid going dink.

What interesting sigs to you really want to get signed off on your Great Qual Card Of Life?

Senator Barack Obama In Boise

Senator Obama came to Boise early this morning, and drew over 14,000 people to hear his stump speech. Let me repeat -- he drew over 14,000 in Boise, Idaho. I'm still standing pat on my prediction that Sen. McCain will beat Sen. Clinton in the general election, but if the Democrats are smart enough to nominate Sen. Obama, I think he'd win in November.

Don't get me wrong -- there's no way any Democrat wins Idaho's electoral votes in the fall. But if he can draw that many people here in Boise, it means he's tapped into something the country hasn't seen in a while; something to which I, as a realist, am apparently immune. I watched his speech on TV, and wasn't really that impressed. People who were there, however, reported that they were completely overwhelmed by his sincerity. Sincerity doesn't win wars, but it can win votes. If Sen. Obama can get the nomination, I think it'll be time for Republicans to focus on keeping at least 41 votes in the Senate.

Movie Review: "There Will Be Blood"

I figured that since I'd already seen two of the movies nominated for "Best Picture" for the Oscars, I should try to see the other three so I can make a good decision about which one I think should win. So, I went tonight to see "There Will Be Blood", a story of a California oilman in the early 20th century.

Daniel Day-Lewis did an incredible job in the lead role; I'm sure he'll win the "Best Actor" Oscar, and deservedly so. The movie itself had long periods, including the first 5 minutes or so, with no real dialogue; this was a somewhat effective vehicle for introducing the character's motivations, although you never do learn why the main character hates everyone.

When I watch a period piece, I fully expect to feel like I've learned something about the era being portrayed. This film seemed to be fairly effective in covering, on a micro level, both California oil wildcatting and the early 1900s religious revival. The old towns, transportation, and living arrangements are what I'd always kind of imagined they'd look like, so I enjoyed them -- anything to reinforce my own worldview.

The movie was long, at almost three hours. I had to go to the bathroom about 2 1/2 hours in, during what I thought would make a good climatic "confrontation" scene with the faith healer who had earlier humiliated Day-Lewis' oilman. During my time away, I was wondering why the movie was titled as it was -- there hadn't been lots of unnecessary murders by a ruthless madman like I was expecting. When I made my way back to the theater, I figure something must have happened to make the audience mad; most of them had left, leaving behind only obnoxious teenagers. Even worse, someone had stolen my coat! Deciding to stick it out until the end, I was surprised to see that the movie had apparently jumped forward to the present day. In a very Kafkaesque plot twist, it appeared that they were showing the oilman's descendents, who were dressed as ancient Greeks Spartans for some reason, kicking pop culture icons into a huge pit. I guess that's where they got the "Blood" in the title from. I can see now how the movie got its "Best Picture" nomination; I know artsy Hollywood-types go for weirdness like that. I didn't stay around for the end, so I don't know what happened after that.

Overall, for the part I saw, I give it 3 Stereotypically-Violent Oil Gushers out of five.