Battlepanda: July 2007


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter and the Road to Serfdom?

(Spoiler Warning: this post links to an interview that contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I quote from a paragraph containing spoilers, but I've ROT13 encoded it.)

With the publication of the final Harry Potter book, the crew at Reason Magazine have been engaging in one of their favorite pastimes, reading libertarian themes into pop-culture works. Here's Brian Doherty:
While speaking at the libertarian gathering FreedomFest in Vegas over the weekend, a panel on Atlas Shrugged was confronted with the question: in 50 years, will libertarian gatherings be mulling over the continuing libertarian significance of Potter? My firm answer: It remains to be seen, only time will tell, the future is inherently kaleidic and unknowable, etc.
Well, I hate to disappoint Mr. Doherty, but it seems clear that J.K. Rowling doesn't share that vision. In an interview with Today (contains spoilers), Rowling revealed what she thinks the surviving characters go on to do after the end of the series, and they don't go on to build an anarcho-capitalist Utopia.
Nf sbe uvf bpphcngvba, Uneel, nybat jvgu Eba, vf jbexvat ng gur Nhebe Qrcnegzrag ng gur Zvavfgel bs Zntvp. Nsgre nyy gurfr lrnef, Uneel vf abj gur qrcnegzrag urnq.

“Uneel naq Eba hggreyl eribyhgvbavmrq gur Nhebe Qrcnegzrag,” Ebjyvat fnvq. “Gurl ner abj gur rkcregf. Vg qbrfa’g znggre ubj byq gurl ner be jung ryfr gurl’ir qbar.”

Zrnajuvyr, Urezvbar, Eba’f jvsr, vf “cerggl uvtu hc” va gur Qrcnegzrag bs Zntvpny Ynj Rasbeprzrag, qrfcvgr ynhtuvat ng gur vqrn bs orpbzvat n ynjlre va “Qrnguyl Unyybjf.”

“V jbhyq vzntvar gung ure oenvacbjre naq ure xabjyrqtr bs ubj gur Qnex Negf bcrengr jbhyq ernyyl tvir ure n fbhaq tebhaqvat,” Ebjyvat fnvq.

Uneel, Eba naq Urezvbar qba’g wbva gur fnzr Zvavfgel bs Zntvp gurl unq orra ng bqqf jvgu sbe lrnef; gurl eribyhgvbavmr vg naq gur zvavfgel ribyirf vagb n “ernyyl tbbq cynpr gb or.”

“Gurl znqr n arj jbeyq,” Ebjyvat fnvq.
(Decode the ROT13 here, or follow the link to the interview. It does contain spoilers.)

Of course, Doherty is free to look beyond the text, like this London fan waiting in line for Deathly Hallows last week. But there is such a thing as reading too much into a work.

Harry Potter is not John Galt, and J.K. Rowling is not Ayn Rand.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

ABD no more

No, not me. Brian May, guitarist for Queen, is completing his doctorate in astrophysics.
The 60-year-old guitarist and songwriter said he plans to submit his thesis, "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud," to supervisors at Imperial College London within the next two weeks.

May was an astrophysics student at Imperial College when Queen, which included Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor, was formed in 1970. He dropped his doctorate as the glam rock band became successful.

Queen were one of Britain's biggest music groups in the 1970s, with hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You."

After Mercury's death in 1991, May recorded several solo albums, including 1998's "Another World." But his interest in astronomy continued, and he co-wrote "Bang! The Complete History of the Universe," which was published last year.

He was due to finish carrying out astronomical observations at an observatory on the island of Spain's Canary Islands, on Tuesday, the observatory said.

May told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he had always wanted to complete his degree.

"It was unfinished business," he said. "I didn't want an honorary Ph.D. I wanted the real thing that I worked for."

My sister asked me a few weeks ago, "Do you ever miss studying philosophy, and consider going back to finish your Ph.D.?"

"Those are two different questions," I replied. "The answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is hell, no!" Of course, if I'm ever a famous rock star, I might change my mind.

(Via Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The price of jingoism

I was in Walmart this afternoon, and I noticed that magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbons have been marked down from $1.50 to 50 cents.

Oh, Apple Daily

This was the frontpage photo on the Chinese language Apple Daily today. And to think Patrick Schneider was fired for getting too photoshop-happy on the tones of a sunset:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Of course, it's arguable that since the manipulations are so blatant, the image is an illustration rather than a photograph. But of course those are routinely 'enhanced' too, according to a reporter at another daily. "The photographer assigned to the lantern festival didn't have enough lanterns in his shot," she said, "so he used the clone tool until he had enough."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why liberals make fun of libertarians

Because they make it so easy.

Julian Sanchez, who is otherwise the epitome of the sane libertarian, tells us that Ratatouille was deeply influnced by — who else — Ayn Rand.
Ratatouille is essentially an animated version of The Fountainhead, except that cooking replaces architecture, Ellsworth Toohey eventually has a Grinchian change of heart, and Howard Roark is a rodent. Remy, a culinary savant who happens to be a rat, delivers mini-sermons to his furry brethren on the importance of having high standards rather than being satisfied with garbage, and denounces his clan's parasitic existence, which he contrasts with the human impulse to create and innovate.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Black metal bands for Taiwan in the U.N.

The above is what I usually think of when I picture a Taiwanese government sponsored event, but apparently they are also co-sponsoring a black metal band to promote Taiwan in the UN, with Ozzie Osborne, no less.

What do we want? Taiwan in the UN. When do we want it? After we bite off the head of a bat.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Amendment XXVIII. The power of the President to grant reprieves and pardons shall not extend to offenses committed while working for the executive branch during that President's term in office, or during the previous President's term in office.

For the purposes of this amendment, the executive branch shall be construed to include the office of the Vice-President, and any official working for or beneath the Vice-President.
(It's too late to do anything about the criminal gang currently in charge of the country, but this amendment will come in handy the next time the American people elect a crook.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Caught my eye

Taiwanese women, like women in many parts of Asia, generally strive to be as pale as possible. Many also favor creased "doubled" eyelids rather than "single" eyelids with an epicanthic fold and a minority utilize surgery to achieve the result if nature did not provide. I tend to scoff when non-Taiwanese try to equate the desire for creased eyelids and pale skin with the desire to be white. It's simplistic thinking. After all, those working on deep tans are not trying to be black. However, billboards like this certainly suggests something deeper at work than a simple aesthetic preference.

The billboard is for a cosmetic surgery clinic called "Ivy League" and the tagline for the billboard runs "A wish even greater than getting in your dream school -- Ivy League will end your days with single eyelids." Not only is the name of the clinic a reference to elite American universities, the billboard is illustrated by a Caucasian woman -- a double-whammy of aspiration to be western.

By the way, the billboard is up near Taipei main station in a sector filled with cram schools where students go after school to go to do test prep, acounting for the dream school reference.