“The War Prayer” of Mark Twain

September 3, 2008


Here’s Twain’s stuff.

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many Americans, like Twain, who questioned the war, in turn had their patriotism questioned.  Why wouldn’t they get on board with the war, and kill off those Filipino rebels? the critics asked.

Here’s a film in two parts, a stunning production, perhaps by Markos Kounalakis (who uploaded the thing); go to the film’s website for a copy of the text.

Part I:

Part II:




McCain picked the wrong woman

September 3, 2008

We need judgment and wisdom in a vice president of the U.S., as well as in a president.

Judging from this open letter to Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain picked the wrong woman.

So we do get to talk about your policies. And we do get to talk about hypocrisy. You asked us to repect your family’s privacy, but you won’t respect my family’s privacy to make our own decisions!

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that, as parents, we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” said Palin, 44, and her husband. “We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents.” They asked the media to respect their child’s privacy.

How come she gets to make a decision but the rest of the girls and women in America don’t! You won’t even let me learn in school about all the decisions I might need to make!

McCain could have used a woman like FrecklesCassie. Alas for McCain, she’s about 20 years too young.

Maybe he should have waited. At a minimum, he should have shopped around for someone with more common sense.

Rapping physics in the Bathtub

September 3, 2008

Now it’s gone big time, with NPR’s Morning Edition and Pharyngula on the bandwagon, remember you saw the Large Hadron Collider Rap second here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

You saw it first at Tommaso Dorigo’s A Quantum Diaries Survivor.

Geography teachers, have you figured out how to use this in your classrooms yet?

Related NPR stories:

69 years ago, diplomacy failed

September 3, 2008

There were other good things to note on Labor Day 2008, and schools were out anyway.

Remember that September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler’s soldiers crossed into Poland, claiming that Poland had somehow threatened Germany’s security.

And so began World War II in Europe.  Read about it in the coverage from the New York Times, then.

Front page of the New York Times, Sept. 1, 1939

Front page of the New York Times, Sept. 1, 1939

Europeans have not forgotten.  So we might understand why Europe gets jumpy when a big nation’s army rolls across the borders of a smaller nation, claiming the smaller nation provoked them.

“Big LASERS are cool”

September 3, 2008

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin showed off their petawatt LASER last week (alas, couldn’t make the open house myself).

LASER project manager Todd Ditmire summed it up:  “Big LASERs are cool.”

The $15 million laser creates a beam that is brighter than the surface of the sun. The pulses of light can reach 1 quadrillion watts (a petawatt) but last just one-tenth of a trillionth of a second.

Scientists such as Todd Ditmire, a UT physics researcher, will use the laser to heat substances to incredibly high temperatures for incredibly short periods of time, approximating the conditions at the center of a star. It’s also expected to help the U.S. Department of Energy in its ambitious research effort to create a laser-based controlled fusion energy source, which might one day be the ultimate clean energy source for the country.

With such pride showing, it might be a good time to note that this project is the result of pure science research funding with federal assistance.  If we could have a science debate among presidential candidates, the Texas Petawatt LASER should be front and center evidence for the value and fun of expanding federal support for science.  Texas’s U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison participated in the dedication ceremony.  Maybe she noticed.

Congratulations, UT.  Don’t point that thing this way!

Read about it here:

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