Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Perfect. Movie.

I wish I could review it properly, but I cannot. It is simply outstanding. Imagine a CGI homage to all the sci-fi cliffhanger reels from the 30s, throw in more modern references to Star Wars and Indiana Jones (which themselves were modeled after those same films), and add way-cool impossible-but-spectacular retro-technology like Flying Aircraft Carriers and submarine fighter planes. Just breathtaking. I will have to go see it again, on a bigger screen and with better sound, if I can find it.

My Rating: worth full evening price, twice.

(Note: as this is the first movie I’ve posted here, my rating scheme is based on how much you have to pay to see it. Worst rating, of course, is “avoid”. Next best is “only see it if someone else pays”, then “matinee”, then “full evening.” Films you need to see more than once on the big screen are “full evening price, twice.” Sky Captain rates the highest. Great way to get started.)

Why Americans hate foreign policy

An excerpt from the Telegraph: Why Americans hate foreign policy by P. J. O’Rourke.

Being foreigners ourselves, we Americans know what foreigners are up to with their foreign policy – their venomous convents, lying alliances, greedy agreements and trick-or-treaties. America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don’t think that way.

We don’t think much at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you’ve got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A fundamental American question is: “What’s the big idea?”

Americans would like to ignore foreign policy. Our previous attempts at isolationism were successful. Unfortunately, they were successful for Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan. Evil is an outreach programme. A solitary bad person sitting alone, harbouring genocidal thoughts, and wishing he ruled the world is not a problem unless he lives next to us in the trailer park.

In the big geopolitical trailer park that is the world today, he does. America has to act. But, when America acts, other nations accuse us of being “hegemonistic,” of engaging in “unilateralism,” of behaving as if we’re the only nation on earth that counts.

We are.

Link via NRO.

F. A. Hayek and Bloggers

This fits in very nicely with complex adaptive systems, emergent phenomena, dynamism, and so on.

TCS: Tech Central Station – Hayek Smiled: Why Blogging Works

If Nobel Prize winning economist F.A. Hayek had been watching last week as bloggers spontaneously responded to fraudulent documents aired by the program “60 Minutes”, he would’ve grinned in humble satisfaction. Hayek’s work centered on the effectiveness of spontaneous, decentralized organization, which is precisely what occurred on PowerlineBlog on September 9th.  Regardless of the political consequences of the Killian Memo controversy, Hayek’s work has been vindicated and his critics undermined.

Hayek’s work focused on how it is that complicated and reliable systems of cooperation come about without any centralized direction. When they do, they outperform systems of “command”, systems that rely on central direction.

Hayek theorized that markets worked better primarily because of their ability to facilitate the use of ‘on the spot’ knowledge, knowledge that is very unique to a particular person or place. … Everyone has something he knows more about than just about anyone else, even if that something is as basic as his own car. A command system requires the person with the knowledge to wait on the guy without it. A market system gives the person with knowledge the freedom and power to act on it.

Oh, just read the whole thing. It’s good stuff.

Dropped Marketing Research

I just dropped the Marketing Research Methodology class. With it, I was taking 9 hours of night classes, which frankly was killing me. How ironic that the one class I wanted most to take, because of the professor, is the one that I should drop — but it was an elective after all, and the other two are required (and required together) for the program.

Wikis in Education

See this Educause article about wikis; hat tip to Many2Many for the link.

Indeed, an instructor could structure and regulate interaction to such an extent that the wiki is effectively transformed into a stripped-down course management system. But doing so risks diluting the special qualities that make wikis worth using in the first place, with the result being, in the words of Heather James, “pumped-up PowerPoint.” James has described the experience of using wikis in her teaching as her “brilliant failure.” She regrets that she “changed the tool, but did not change the practice,” and failed to account for the “great potential in this tool to be completely disruptive (in a good way) to the classroom setting.” With the benefit of hindsight, she concludes that for wikis to fulfill their promise, “the participants need to be in control of the content—you have to give it over fully.”26 This process involves not just adjusting the technical configuration and delivery; it involves challenging the social norms and practices of the course as well.

Gelernter on “Bush’s Greatness”

With the caveat that I think Bush is doing only one thing right (i.e., his prosecution of the war against Islamo-Fascism), I found this piece from David Gelernter quite refreshing.

THE WAR IN IRAQ is dual-purpose, like most American wars. Take the Civil War. At the beginning, the North fought mainly for pragmatic reasons. No nation can tolerate treason, or allow itself to be ripped to bits or auctioned off piece-wise by malcontents. Midwesterners couldn’t allow the Mississippi to fall into foreign hands; they needed their outlet to the sea. And so on. Slavery was overshadowed. But as the war continued, slavery emerged as the issue, and the war’s character changed.

The Iraq war started as a fight to knock out a regime that invaded its neighbors, murdered its domestic enemies with poison gas, subsidized terrorism, and flouted the international community. Obviously such a regime was dangerous to American interests. But as the war continued and we confronted Saddam’s gruesome tyranny face to face, the moral issue grew more important, as emancipation did in the Civil War. For years the Iraqi people had been screaming, in effect: “Oh, my God. Please help me! Please help me! I’m dying!” How could America have answered, “We don’t want to get involved”? We are the biggest kid on the playground. If we won’t help, who will?

There’s quite a lot; read the whole thing.

Gelernter knows personally about terrorism; a package from the Unabomber blew off his hand.

UPDATE: Forgot the hat-tip to Photon Courier.

Guerre de Luxe

Belmont Club has a good post about the options Russia had available to it during the recent terrorist attack on a school in Beslan. They have this to say about America’s prosecution of World War IV:

America’s unmatched power allowed President Bush to select the most humane course of war available. No European power, nor all of them put together, could have embarked on such a precise campaign for lack of means. It was a rich man’s strategy, a guerre de luxe.

Read the whole thing; it’s short and to-the-point.