More Proof Japan is Awesome

12 May

     One of the things I’ve put on my bucket list is to travel around the world to various destinations, one of which is Tokyo. The culture of that island nation is fascinating. They have contributed greatly to the world in art, science, technology, and philosophy. I often find myself focusing on their technology, though. Example: Video Games.  What video game is that crazy Hunter thinking about now? Okami, a game for PS2 and Wii created by Capcom, CriWare, and ReadyAtDawn.
    Consider the storyline:  Long ago, in a peaceful village known as Kamiki, a ritual was held every year of sacrificing a young maiden to the great eight-headed serpent, Orochi. On the 100th year of this horrible rite, two brave souls stepped forward to put an end to Orochi’s reign: the great warrior Nagi and an enigmatic wolf known as Shiranui. They marched into Orochi’s lair and killed it by getting it drunk and cutting its heads off. Sadly, in the fight, Shiranui was killed. The heroic lupine fighter was immortalized as a statue in Kamiki Village. One hundred years have passed since then, and darkness is stirring again. The statue of Shiranui is brought to life as Okami Amaterasu, god of the sun. (That’s you.) Amaterasu, aka Ammy, must defeat the evil beings plaguing the earth once again, as well as restoring people’s faith in the gods.

Yeah, your dog can fetch, play dead, whatever. Can your dog perform exorcisms? I didn't think so!

     This game is, in every right, amazing. The graphics are like Japanese art.  It has, in fact, been featured in the Smithsonian’s recent “Art of Video Games” exhibit.  Link to http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/archive/2012/games/.  The music is beautiful. The story is magnificent, as well as being based on Japanese Shinto mythology. What really miffs me, though, is that none of my friends have heard of this game. (Then again, most of them have Xbox 360’s, but even the ones who do have a PS2 or Wii still have never heard of it.) It has received multiple awards and is designed for two popular, but different, systems.  However, it’s practically invisible. Most people just know it as “that game with the wolf on it.”
    Among the people of the Internet, the game has just recently sparked some popularity due to extremely well-known Youtube gamer Chuggaaconroy recording a 100% walkthrough with commentary.  It inspired me enough to buy the game, and I’m sure many other nerds got their copy as well. If you stumble upon this article, get the game, and love it as much as I do.  Please spread awareness. Thank you.
    Getting back to why this game is awesome, it has… (hmm, where to begin?) several minigames that involve fishing, digging, and destroying things–plus, sidequests galore.  Almost every NPC in the game has a sidequest-related purpose.  All these off-the-beaten-path missions net you “praise orbs” you can use to power up your health, money, and more. 

Meet Orochi. I have a feeling you're not going to like him.

    Now if you go up onto the upper-right hand corner of your browser and search images of Amaterasu, you’ll probably see a weird, fiery gadget on her back. That is what is known as a divine instrument.  It’s a weapon.  There are three types of weapons, each with its own delicious flavor of pain: 1) Reflectors – These mirrors are standard in power for attacking and can deflect enemy attacks. 2) Rosaries – Strings of beads are surprisingly good weapons, very fast, and capable of rapid fire bead blasting. 3) Glaives – They are swords. Enough said.
    Amaterasu’s arsenal of attacks doesn’t end there, though. The real deal that makes this game so awesome is the Celestial Brush. Once you cue it up, various symbols can be drawn to trigger a great many abilities. However, you only have one brush power from the start, you must find your fellow gods to reclaim the other techniques. Here are a few:

Sunrise – Mastered by Amaterasu, god of the sun.
Draw a circle in the sky to make the sun appear and make it the day’s beginning.

Rejuvenation – Mastered by Yomigami, god of restoration.
Scribble in something broken and watch it reappear!

Power Slash –  Mastered by Tachigami, god of rending.
A straight line becomes a sword that slashes through the hardest of obstacles.

There are more, but I wouldn’t want to give spoilers. Then again, you are on the Internet…

A city in the game settles down in the evening. I freakin' love the art direction in this game.

Recapping, this game is awesome. If it’s not a ten out of ten, it’s pretty darn close. So, the next time you want to rid a country of evil while looking at awesome graphics and listening to beautiful music, go find that game with the wolf on it.
                            Regards,
                            Hunter

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How to Be Cool in 10+ Steps

4 May

Are you cool?  Check out our checklists and see how you fare.  Keep reading, and you will learn how to achieve this elusive trait.  If you’re already there, congratulations.  I’m not.

Iceman, the Marvel comics superhero, as shown on the website http://www.samruby.com

I need to be more “cool.”  I am decidedly un-cool.  Does that make me warm?  No, it makes me embarrassing.  People can take one look at me and tell exactly how I feel.  And that can be a terrible handicap.  For example, when I lose my temper, I can’t hide it, which makes me look like a toddler in mid-tantrum instead of the paragon of virtue that I pretend to be.  Also, I tend to gush about things I like, which is fine unless the other people aren’t rabid fans of Techno.

 Just in case you, too, need to be more cool, let’s look up a definition for the word.  After that, we can give you some rock-solid advice on how achieve coolness.

 Our good friend Wikipedia has the answer.  It always does, even though most of the information you read there isn’t expert.  (And most of what you read on the Internet isn’t interesting.) 

 “Something regarded as cool is an admired aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance and style, influenced by and a product of the Zeitgeist.”  Okay…what?  (Preparing to menu-dive into a maze of links…)

Zeitgeist (pronounced TSITE GUYST) is a German word meaning “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age.” It can be traced to philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder in the mid-1700s.  He was associated with the artistic movement known as “Sturm und Drang,” which is mentioned here because it has such a cool-sounding name, especially when you say it with a German accent (SCHTOORM OONDRANG.)  That was a time “in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment.”

Hey, wait a minute…  Extremes of emotion?  That’s not cool.  The name of the movement translates to “storm and urge,” which describes the way I act now.  I’m afraid we will have to abandon this tangent.  I guess it used to be trendy to rage about things in Germany.  The Nazis certainly thought so.  In contrast, today’s Germans are among the coolest, most under-reacting people on Earth.  (Maybe that’s why they’re good at Techno.)

 The Merriam Webster dictionary says cool is “marked by steady dispassionate calmness and self-control,” which is what I thought it should mean. It also defines cool as “very good,” which is the most unenlightening definition ever.   It offers one final definition as “fashionable or hip,” but it fails to define “hip” correctly.  All it says is (noun) “part of the human body,” or “fruit of the rosebush rose,” or (verb) “to sprain or dislocate,” or (interjection) “exclamation used in cheers.”  This is wrong.  You know as well as I do that hip is an adjective meaning cool.

We’ve come full circle:  Cool means hip.  Hip mean cool.  It’s time to look for other answers.  A Google search yield mostly minor websites and joke videos.  A website does exist named “Howtobecool.com,” but it offers lame links such as “find friends” and “depression support” that cool people don’t need.  (Apparently I’m not the only person having trouble with this concept.)

The website alanwho.com advises:  Disregard what other people say.  Don’t try to make everyone happy.  Never argue.  Don’t slouch.  Speak confidently.  Walk with a “glide.”  Bend rules, but don’t break them.  Never whine.  Be patient.  Stay focused.  Use few words.   Avoid overused slang.  Speak highly of your friends. Never talk down to anyone.   Have diverse friends.  Don’t join clubs.  Always keep learning. 

Well, that’s not a bad start, but I doubt it will impress the bar crowd–you know, those cool, 20-somethings, the beautiful people, who hang out all night, doing Xtreme fun things.

The website AskMen.com advises:  Have a nice, good-looking girlfriend.  Don’t over-call your friends; have a purpose when you call them.  Dress well.  Be knowledgeable.  Be funny.  Don’t be a downer.

That sounds more like being admirable than cool.

The website mindfields.org.uk advises:  Learn to do with less attention.  Don’t compete with other people for attention.  Say less than is necessary.  Learn to behave well from those who don’t know how.  Do not ‘freeload’ or overstay your welcome.  Never whine.  Appear unhurried.  Be different — but not too different. Appear not to want things you cannot have.  Exercise courtesy and tact at all times.

That sounds more like being polite than cool

A more practical approach comes from Wikihow.com.   In short:  Remember that you can’t please everyone.  Present yourself well in public.  Be calm and confident.  Stand up for yourself but avoid arguing.  Speak briefly and clearly.  Converse well.  Use humor and laugh at yourself.  Develop your goals and talents.  Find real friends.  Be friendly but not overly eager.  Dress in your own style.  Be yourself.  Do the right thing.  Don’t brag.  Don’t do drugs.

Good advice, especially appropriate for the preppy floating through life.

A humorous perspective comes from the website loganwhitehurst.com.  He writes:  Have a killer pickup line.  Don’t do what your parents want you to do.  Imitate the appearance of someone you think is cool.  Have an enigmatic nickname.  Reference Fonzie.  Have an enviable job.  Know your coffee drinks.  Be prepared for any situation.  Parallel park well.  Be in a band.

According to the above advice, I already fit the definition of cool.  And since I know that isn’t true, the advice must be off-target.

Back to Wiki’s original definition–if cool means in “the spirit of the times,” that makes it close to the meaning of “trendy.”  Therefore, it may approximate the term “hipster.”  Those people make a point of knowing what is cool before it’s cool.  Once it becomes mainstream, it’s over for the hipsters.  So, are hipsters the definition of cool?  Maybe, for some people, they are.  For most people, hipsters are laughably presumptuous.  How can anyone be cool when they are trying too hard?

Perhaps it is time to look back to ancient Eastern philosophy for the answer.  Ninja is cool.  Chuck Norris is… well, he used to be cool until people started telling all of those jokes. The creed of Tae Kwon Do, Korean martial arts, sums it up nicely:  Respect.  Courtesy.  Goodness.  Trustworthiness.  Loyalty. Humility.  Courage.  Patience.  Integrity.  Perseverance.  Self-control.  Indomitable Spirit.  Does anyone care to argue with a martial arts master?  No?  Good move.

People seem to agree that coolness goes deeper than surface actions and appearances.  “How to Be Cool” turned into a list of actual character traits that comprise a psychologically well-adjusted personality!

What’s more, a distinct difference emerged between “popular people” and “cool people.”  Popular people are often too social and outspoken to be truly cool. Popular people follow the crowd, but cool people find their own way.  Popular people can be snarky, but cool people rise above base behavior.   On the other hand, cool people can end up being popular, but the catch is, they don’t care.

In short, cool is a good way to be.  I’d rather be cool than popular because cool people have integrity.  Based on the best suggestions so far, plus a few suggestions of our own, here is a list of 10+ ways to achieve cooldom:

 Traits of a Cool Person:

1.  Calm – Don’t overreact to anything–good or bad.  Let it go, and move on.

2.  Dignified – Have pride in yourself without arrogance.  Don’t hero-worship.

3.  Respectful – Be courteous to people.  Be considerate of nature.

4.  Understated – Speak your mind sparingly and effectively.

5.  Confident – Know your abilities, and be sure of what you do.

6.  Satisfied – Be comfortable with who you are.  Be content with what you have.

7.  Well-centered – Know your own feelings and values.  Be true to yourself.

8.  Low maintenance – Don’t seek attention.  Don’t be emotionally needy.

9.  Self-directed – Make your own decisions.  Find your own happiness.

10.  Original – Express yourself in a unique way.  Be creative and inventive.

11.  Stylish – Care about your appearance.  Present yourself well in public.

12.  Clever – Be alert, aware, and resourceful.

13.  Witty – Maintain your sense of humor.  Direct laughs at yourself.

14.  Talented – Develop your skills and knowledge.  Do something admirable.

If that list is too serious, or you don’t want to go through the difficult job of actually becoming a better person, all that is left is to become pseudo-cool–in other words, a Cool Poser.  An unfortunate number of people choose this easy but pathetic route.

 How to Pose as a Cool Person:

1.  Buy overpriced clothing and accessories.

2.  Own the newest and latest electronics.

3.  Go into debt for a hot car.

4.  Learn how to swagger.

5.  Imitate gang hand signs.

6.  Overuse catchy phrases.

7.  Curse in every sentence.

8.  Drop obscure references.

9.  Constantly text.

10.  Become a self-proclaimed expert.

11.  Show no emotion.

12   Be nice only to other cool people.

13.  Ignore inferior people.

14.  Remember:  It’s all about you.

–Chris

Featured Meme: Advice Dog

4 Apr

Upon reading this title, one may think, “what does Hunter mean when he says ‘meme?’ Is it a new kind of pastry? A brand of scented candles? Maybe it’s a image, trend, or phrase propagated across the Internet.” If you honestly thought that third one, I must applaud you. That’s really what it is. From a complex YouTube Video to a simple picture, anything can pick up popularity and reach meme status. Any Internet-goer can see it then change it around any way he wants to add to its popularity.

Memes (pronounced “meems”) are, if you think about it, legal plagiarism because they are meant to be copied and recreated.  Anything can be a meme, really, not just stuff on the Internet.  If your dad teaches you how to, oh, I don’t know, swallow a live goldfish, you’d probably want to show off to your friends.  An epidemic begins, and local pet stores are hit with a fish shortage.  Despite this fishy tragedy, laughs grow and socialization is given a new tool that is capable of spreading like wildfire. This is truly an… interesting example of how culture evolves and shapes itself with the help of communication. (There are better, less ASPCA-angering examples, too.) The Internet lets those cultural tidbits spread across the globe in the blink of an eye.

This first article covers many memes at once. (This particular meme has a lot of subcategories.)  Behold the Advice Dog trend.

According to knowyourmeme.com, the Advice Dog phenomenon started in a Mario fansite forum thread when a user named “TEM” uploaded a picture of his dog (named Boba Fett) with a rainbow background. People were fawning over that puppy like you wouldn’t believe! Since the image was so simple, anyone could easily goof around with it on Photoshop. Someone decided to add captions promoting bad, stupid, or just plain weird advice. The following image is actually one of the better pieces of advice. The others involve offensive things we probably shouldn’t/couldn’t publish. (Lots of these do.)

But just one philosophical pooch wasn’t enough. There’s also the Courage Wolf! Courage Wolf occasionally gives pretty good advice, though oftentimes it’s quite violent. (Wait until you see Insanity Wolf! He’s too sadistic to be covered here!) The swap from Advice Dog to Courage Wolf could be explained because some people have edgier personalities and aren’t particularly fond of cuteness.

As you have noticed, lots of these memes are presented as animals (though I have seen The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Christina Aguilera, Bill O’Reilly, and an Asian father as memes). Keeping with this animal theme, our next spotlight is on the Philosoraptor. As the name suggests, he poses sage questions that make quite a bit of sense–most of the time.

While the makers of Phliosoraptor most likely wanted to bring the art of intellectuality into these memes, the creators of the Lame Pun Coon wanted to do the opposite: remove the concept of logical thinking. If you have ever heard a joke so bad you wanted to throw up, the Lame Pun Coon has said it–probably. He once submitted ten puns to a pun contest hoping at least one would win, but “no pun in ten did.” See what I mean?

With the focus still on things that make you roll your eyes in disgust, the Foul Bachelor Frog is a classic stereotype of dudes with their own place: ridiculous eating habits, unhygienic behavior, and just plain immaturity. No napkins? Use a tortilla! This very popular meme even has a female counterpart: the Foul Bachelorette Frog, which proves females can be just as gross as males, if not grosser. (No offense, ladies.)

The next meme is much cleaner, thank goodness. He makes us observe and think about our own ineptitude and shows us some extreme examples, too. He is the Technologically Impaired Duck.

Think of how much computers have advanced from years past. It is quite easy to get lost in all this techno mumbo jumbo. (If you are lost, don’t use a GPS.) The duck offers a sarcastic way of whining to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs about their plagues on mankind. Wait! I just minimized my browser! I wonder where it went…

Next up is another bird who has serious issues. The Paranoid Parrot is a blue macaw that always imagines the worst possible scenario for every situation. Those of you who are reading this in your concrete bunker/panic room defending against the apocalypse can probably relate to this guy. A favorite of mine: “Get sick, look up symptoms on Google. HOLY COW, I’M GOING TO DIE!” A harmless airplane flying above makes his life flash before his eyes, and even the softest of noises convinces him that Insanity Wolf is outside waiting to strike. (Told you Insanity Wolf was hardcore.) An interesting thing to note about the Paranoid Parrot is that he often acknowledges the fact that he is a meme. (Read Paranoid Parrot… He’s right.) Paranoia springs eternal.

Keeping with our bird theme, this feathered friend is very popular as a meme. It is another good way of letting us look at our flaws and laugh, but the laughter comes not necessarily from who we are but what we do. This is the Socially Awkward Penguin. Have you ever held the door open for someone, but they were just slightly too far away? The Penguin’s been there. Ever seen someone waving and wave back only to realize they were waving to someone else? The penguin’s done that. The Socially Awkward Penguin is the patron saint of Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

So, after I’ve spent all this time looking at funny pictures on the Internet, what have I learned? Information spreads faster than ever now with the help of technology. Laughs are a great way to prove how quickly trends catch on. With all of this sharing of intellectual property without copyrights in the way, all people can take a simple picture of a puppy and make their own versions, perhaps reflecting their own habits or quirks. Isn’t it just amazing how we don’t have to worry about getting our pants sued off, for memes were intended to be stolen?

I suppose this is as good a place as any to say that on memegenerator.com, new memes such as Advice Dog can be created with the push of a button.  These include:

  • Success Kid
  • Success Nun
  • Scene Wolf
  • Bear Grylls (From the TV show Man Vs. Wild.)
  • Charlie Sheen (From… well, I think you know who he is.)
  • Bad Pickup Line Panda
  • Hipster Kitty
  • Business Cat
  • Random Fact Elephant

…and more, some of which will get their own featured meme articles. The Internet is a powerful place. Why waste it with this garbage? BECAUSE WE CAN.

–Hunter

Tourist Trap of America

9 Mar

Where in the USA do tourists outnumber locals ten to one? Branson, Missouri. Almost every summer, my family heads out there with the help of a timeshare and takes in as much Vegas-like kitschiness as possible. With theme parks, shows, and more mini-golf than you can shake a club at, you’ll remember this place for one reason or another for the rest of your life. I’m going to go over some of the coolest attractions they have.

Not sure about Silver Dollar City? Why don’t you “ax” them yourself!

Perhaps one of the most renowned theme parks in America is in Branson: Silver Dollar City. Visitors can explore the beautiful underground Marvel Caverns, ride spectacular rides, and experience the fun of the old west. Another theme park – this time, slightly less dry – is White Water, which has everything you expect at a water park: a wave pool, a lazy river, and a couple of water slides (some of which use inner tubes). But the highlight of my White Water experience was Kalani Towers, a humongous seven-story tall waterslide of terror! Tremble in fear, mortal!  After you climb up numerous stairs, you have a choice of riding down on your back vertically, screaming the whole time, or using a mat to go down several slightly smaller, yet still just as thrilling, slides.

Those with weak stomachs should look away. (And stay on the ground.)

If theme parks aren’t really your thing, maybe you could just sit back and watch one of Branson’s shows. (You can even find one if you’re lost, they’re so numerous. Pretty much all the roads in Branson lead to Country Music Boulevard.) One of the best I saw was recommended by my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Ron:  Legends In Concert. It features impersonators of such singers as The Blues Brothers, Little Richard, Alan Jackson, Madonna, Elvis, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and tons more. Intrigued about it, we made it one of our prime destinations. It did not disappoint.  If you enjoy music and the fake realism of celebrity wanna-bes, then you urgently need to see one of their shows. (More LIC venues across the country, i.e., Seattle, Myrtle Beach, etc.)

On the topic of phony celebrities, Branson has the amazing Hollywood Wax Museum. Travelers can pose with Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Jack Black, Marilyn Monroe, and a host of others. In the same building are two more attractions, the three together known as the “Hollywood Wax Trifecta.”  The second one, the Castle of Chaos, is much more… interactive. It is, in fact, the world’s first 5-dimensional haunting experience! (Don’t ask me how that’s possible, I don’t know.) It’s pretty much a 3D horror film with so many special effects added in that you’ll think zombies are actually attacking you! According to its website, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions says, “This is the first haunted ride in the world to combine so many multi-media elements and technologies in one attraction. The result is a first-class scare!” The third and final element of the HWT is Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors. If you’re claustrophobic or maze-o-phobic, then I suggest you sit this one out. This labyrinth of reflections will mess with your mind until your face is bruised from bumping into yourself too many times. It’s even a multimedia presentation, as sometimes you’ll discover it’s not a path or a mirror, but a projector screen with hints, encouragement, or even taunts from medieval- themed characters.

The last fun thing I want to cover is a gateway to even more fun things: ducks. Yeah, ducks. Ride the Ducks is a group that uses old military amphibious vehicles to give tours around Branson, showing off some of the more interesting places. With each ride comes a free “Wacky Quacker,” a duckbill that makes a funny noise when blown through. If you pass another duck on the road, then it is your duty as a tourist to quack as loud as possible. Some stores and restaurants even give discounts to people with Wacky Quackers. Once land gets a little boring, the driver speeds the duck into Table Rock Lake and lets some passengers drive for a while. It’s a fun way to see more stuff.
I have only scratched the surface of what Branson has to offer. Whether you’re after rides and attractions, comedy or music shows, or just a way to escape the humdrum routine of everyday life, Branson has something to offer you.

–Hunter

Turtle: Submarine of the Revolutionary War

4 Mar

Naval combat has been a key to successful warfare in history from the ancient Greeks’ and Romans’ galleys to the towering aircraft carriers of today. Keeping control of the sea has been important for thousands of years, and rarely is there an exception. Controlling the seas with naval vessels was especially important to the Americans and the British in the Revolutionary War because sea routes could bring in troops and supplies, and forming blockades could cut them off. The Americans were desperate to throw the British navy out of their waters, so they found a solution–a tiny wooden submarine. Its mission was difficult, but it was the only way to rout the British besides a huge sea battle and the loss of many needed lives.

This exciting tale was originally published in Sea Frontiers July/August 1975 issue, according to George Pararas-Carayannis, and is retold on his website http://www.drgeorgepc.com/Turtle.html.

In 1776, a man named David Bushnell, a graduate of Harvard University, had an idea. The thought was nothing short of ingenious, and it may have led to a whole new class of warships. The idea was to build a submarine that would move to an enemy ship, drill a hole in the hull, place a time-detonated bomb, and leave before the bomb exploded to sink the ship.

The submarine would look like two tortoise shells placed stomach-to-stomach and a lid with six glass windows on the top. The pilot would have to do everything by hand, from steering to propulsion. Inside the craft, the operator would have to crank the propeller to move the sub.  There were two propellers–one to move, and one to descend. The craft was also weighed down with a 600-pound lead ballast to stop the submarine from bobbing.

This must have been what the Turtle looked like. Photo from the World Almanac.

The inside of the submersible was lit with luminescent foxfire fungus (because using fire to illuminate the craft would use up the oxygen, and the pilot would suffocate).  The sub’s air supply would only last 30 minutes. The bomb the craft carried consisted of 150 pounds of black powder and used a flintlock detonator to keep it from exploding for up to 12 hours. The sub was named the Turtle because of its shell-like hull.

The turtle was scheduled to attack the British flagship HMS Eagle in the spring of 1776.

The pilot Ezra Bushnell, David Bushnell’s brother, trained in the safe waters of the Connecticut River, According to Michael Mohl on NavSource Online, a volunteer organization that preserves naval history at http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08441.htm.  Finally, the date for the scheduled attack had come. Unfortunately, on the eve of the attack, Ezra Bushnell died.  Fortunately, another man named Ezra Lee volunteered to do the dangerous mission.  He trained intensely for months until he was confident he was ready to attack.

The bioluminescent foxfire fungus. Photo from quantum-immortal.net

However, by this time, the British had moved their fleet to New York Harbor, so Lee had to go though many more months of training to prepare for the odd and tricky currents in the harbor. On July 12th, the Turtle was transported by a sloop and successfully placed in the harbor in the dark of night. Lee silently pedaled towards the British warship HMS Eagle and submerged under the ship.  Things began to go badly.

As Lee started to drill into the ship’s hull, he accidentally hit metal instead of wood. He tried but couldn’t get through. Lee had no idea where he was drilling because the sub lacked a window on top. When his air supply almost ran out, he surfaced and descended yet again. And he failed again. Lee was exhausted and was forced to pedal back to land because the harbor’s tides had begun to change.  He pedaled frantically but was spotted by British sailors.  Lee released his bomb in hope of distracting the British.  The bomb exploded and, as Lee had hoped, distracted the British. Lee made it back to land alive, but he had failed his mission. It had not been a complete failure, however. The British did recognize the threat and moved their blockade, so the Americans could still get ships in and out of the harbor.

Turtle attacking HMS Eagle. Photo from http://www.drgeorgepc.com

The Turtle made more attacks later in the war with some success. It once drilled a hole in another British war ship but was not able to get the bomb in place correctly. The bomb exploded and damaged the ship and killed three men. However, the Turtle never sank any ships like it was originally intended.

Even though the Turtle failed its missions, it is considered by many to be a twisted psychological victory and possibly the basis for a new kind of warship–the submarine. Wherever the final resting place of the Turtle may be, it is forever lost in naval history–but remembered as the seed for all submarines to come.

–Jaime

Tea Party Then and Now

25 Feb

Special thanks to our reader “piper” for requesting articles about the American Revolution.   Here’s  one for you–with a political angle!

Are we on our way to another American Revolution?  Almost two and a half centuries have passed since the original Boston Tea Party in 1773.  Political unrest has spawned a new Tea Party.  But what does it have in common with its namesake?

 

 

Boston Tea Party

Populism – The first Boston Tea Party was a populist movement, which means that its goal was “seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people.”  In Colonial America, citizens were angry that the British could impose taxes that none of their own elected officials got a chance to discuss or put to a vote.  The average citizen grumbled about paying taxes to benefit Great Britain, not the colonies.

Less Government control – Great Britain prohibited the colonists from buying tea from anyone but the East India Tea Company–creating a  trade monopoly, which constituted too much government control.

Grassroots Level Organization – When the ships arrived with their cargo, a group of citizens, organized at the grassroots level, boarded the ships and dumped the tea into the harbor.

Resistance – The colonists formed a resistance against the established government to overthrow their colonial rulers.

Tea Party

Populism – Similarly, the new Tea Party also claims to represent the views of the average citizen.  For example, most Americans agree that it is a good idea to keep taxes low and reduce the government debt.  The Tea Party also offers what it believes to be “popular” viewpoints about health care, global warming, illegal immigration, and other issues.

Less Government Control – Tea Party members believe that the government should not overstep its power.  For example, it concedes that most Americans want affordable health care but argues that the free market should establish a fair system.

Resistance – The Tea Party has formed a resistance to President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation.  It contends that it is unconstitutional to mandate a program that forces all Americans to carry health insurance.

Grassroots Level Organization –  The Tea Party is considered to be a grassroots level organization because it is not as well-established or organized as the Republican and the Democratic parties.

So, can the new Tea Party movement change American history as did the Boston Tea Party? The last two points of comparison–resistance and grassroots level organization–offer the most insight into answering this question.  First of all, it is necessary to define who the enemy is and to agree upon a resistance strategy.  And secondly, it is necessary to recruit support, at the most basic level, within the community.  These are sticking points in today’s American society.

While the colonists lacked communication devices to help them organize, they also had a smaller population–of only two million then, compared to 308 million now.  Amazingly, the Boston Tea Party quickly and effectively gained popular support by posting printed signs and holding town hall meetings.  The following account is given by the Boston Tea Party Historical Society: <http://www.boston-tea-party.org/in-depth.html>

“On Monday morning, the 29th of November, 1773, a handbill was posted all over Boston, containing the following words: ‘Friends! Brethren! Countrymen!–That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor; the hour of destruction, or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny, stares you in the face. Every friend to his country, to himself and to posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o’clock THIS DAY (at which time the bells will ring), to make united and successful resistance to this last, worst, and most destructive measure of administration.’”

The resulting meeting attracted so many people that, “The crowd soon became so great that the Hall could not contain them…” The attendees supported the actions of the 60 men who boarded the ships, “…and in course of three hours they emptied 342 chests of tea into the water of the harbor.”  Without the aid of the Internet or cell phones, the American colonists had assembled a flash mob!

Today, with the help of technology, revolutions have been formed against long-standing governments in the Middle East, such as Egypt’s grassroots coup, organized on Facebook, which ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February. And so, one would assume that the job would be easier for the Tea Party in 21st century America than in 18th century Boston.  Not so.

On the contrary, it is more difficult than ever to recruit support at the grassroots level because the Internet has the power to both unify and divide.  People spend their free time reading an abundance of conflicting information that splinters them into sub-groups, each with its own combination of liberal and conservative leanings.  Undoubtedly, if a viewpoint exists, a blog exists to support it.

Although their agenda is more closely aligned with traditional Republicans, not Democrats, the Tea Party recruits people from both parties.  Disenfranchised voters can voice their objections to the platforms of either established party.  Democrats tired of supporting unionized labor or a “welfare state” can join up.  Republicans with average incomes who are tired of “rich people” buying influence with huge donations can sign up.  The Tea Parties offers a welcome avenue of dissent, but it might squander its influence because people disagree about what to disagree about.

Mother Jones magazine describes the Tea Party as, “an agglomeration of hundreds of local groups that often compete with each other and hotly insist that they take direction from no one.”  <http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/08/history-of-the-tea-party>  Lest those words be considered unfair criticism from a liberal publication, in January 2010, even Newsweek magazine warned, “at the very moment the tea party has proved it is an undeniable political force that must be taken seriously, it is at risk of tearing itself apart.  <http://www.newsweek.com/2010/01/21/is-the-tea-party-over.html> Truly, it is difficult to persuade people to agree whom the enemy is, when the revolution is against the America establishment, itself, not against an outside force, like British colonial rulers.

Hope for this new grassroots, conservative movement depends upon whether it is bold enough to establish itself as a true Third Party.  Can it offer an alternative that represents the majority of  Americans, as it professes the Republicans and Democrats have failed to do?  And, most importantly, can it nominate viable candidates that will be elected?  Instead of the physical struggle of throwing a cargo of tea overboard, the new Tea Party must find legal and political avenues to overthrow the establishment.  Only then will it take its place beside the Boston Tea Party in U.S. history books.

–Chris

Iceland At Its Musical Best

23 Feb

Movie Review:  Heima

Rating:  5 stars

Foreign films can be a little daunting because it’s hard to read subtitles and watch the action at the same time.  Yet, American movies have become tedious in their predictability:  car chase, gunfire, explosion.  At least foreign films give you an alternative;  they show you what life (and attitudes) are like in other countries.  It’s nice to find one that is also relaxing to watch–especially for music lovers.

Photo from website http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

The movie Heima is about Iceland’s most famous band, Sigur Rós, a downtempo, alternative music group with a unique sound.  If you haven’t heard them, follow this link to their website:

http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/media/

But the movie is as much about Iceland as it is about the band.  These quiet, dignified musicians reflect Iceland’s quiet, dignified society.  The movie follows the band as it travels around the island, giving brief concerts, most of which are held outdoors or in small town halls in midsummer.  Life in Iceland, just south of the Arctic Circle, is interesting–at Summer Solstice, the days there are 21 hours long, and at Winter Solstice, only four hours.

Photo from travel agency iceland2go.com

Without advance publicity, the concerts attracted a cross-section of people.  The events became family affairs with every age group represented:  adults, young children, adolescents, old people, and babies.  Absent were the aggressive fans and fawning groupies that mar many audiences.  Icelanders treated the band cordially, politely, and as equals.  People in the audience moved around freely and casually, reacting to the presence of this excellent band as a natural occurrence.

 

The Icelandic people were beautiful; many had the white-blonde hair of their Scandinavian ancestors.  Many wore handmade sweaters with Nordic patterns knitted from local wool. These gorgeous sweaters can be bought online from the Handknitting Association of Iceland.

Handknit sweaters from local wool by the Handknitting Association of Iceland

The vast majority of the movie took place outside.  Everywhere, the camera focused on broad expanses of sky, land, and water.  Every scene showed a love of nature.  Without drama or sentimentality, the movie succeeded in being poignant yet joyful.

Icelanders appeared to be one of the most laid-back civilizations of modern times. They seemed to be universally calm and centered.  Average citizens performed folk music or demonstrated art without a trace of attention seeking behavior.  In one funny scene,  a church group hauled a Kawai keyboard out to a field, where the organist sat on a roll of fencing and the choir sang robustly–as cars rolled by on the freeway!  In another, the band assembled inside a cave and played a large xylophone made of sawed pieces of rock.  Each musician took up a pair of mallets, claimed an octave, and added a musical part.  The result was mesmerizing.

Very little of the sparse dialogue was subtitled. Translation was unnecessary.  No profound meaning was loaded into conversations. And yet, like life, every simple action was loaded with emotion.  Pride, a sense, of belonging, sincerity, and a generosity of spirit came through clearly in these steadfast, sturdy inhabitants of a unique and rugged land.

For all of these reasons, Heima is a movie worth watching, even if you aren’t a fan of Sigur Rós.  But if you are, you will be rewarded with hours of glorious, soaring, serene music, featuring the angelic voice of its vocalist.  Don’t miss the experience.

–Chris

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