Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Learning Unity 3D

Unity (3D) is one of those all-in-one, inclusive, cradle-to-grave 3D packages that has a billion and one things that it tries to do in an effort to provide some sort of structure or environment for real time 3D animation, what many would call “games”. Or “VR”.

It is clear that they have done a valiant job to both provide a framework, and also to provide scriptability and programmability at every level. Thank goodness the bad old days when somehow people thought they were going to do computer animation without being able to program computers seems to be dead. It is also clear that Unity has put a lot of serious effort into providing real documentation in contrast to so many other firms out there who seem to think that they can "group source" their documentation from random users.  I appreciated that they recognized that there is user documentation online that is not very good.  They have an entertaining IDE that seems to work right out of the box and supports not one, not two, but three different but related scripting languages.  This is all good news.

The bad news is simply that with software of this type there are barriers to entry and one needs to reach a certain critical mass before you can do much of anything useful with it.  This is just a fact of life.  And at least in Unity's case everything makes sense, at least so far.  That is more than I can say about many other software packages out there whose name I will not mention, other than Photoshop and Gimp, those two I will mention by name.

So it takes time to get traction as with any serious software package.

There is one silliness which I have noticed they try to conscientiously document.  One of their three embedded scripting languages is "Javascript-like" but when you look closer you realize it is not Javascript much at all.  So that is a little weird and it has the side effect that in fact you only think you know how to program one of their scripting languages, the reality is different.

So why do I mention all this?  Its because a friend asked for some help on a demonstration he was doing in Unity and he had a little less than a week.  The problem is, in about a week one can start thinking about getting something simple done in a system like this.  A month would be more realistic.

And this is not an isolated situation. The fact is that there are dozens if not hundreds of these packages out there, each in their own niche, and none of them are terribly difficult to learn, at least up to a point. But it is not instantaneous and figuring out which ones to learn and become good at is not intuitively obvious, most of the time.

[10/16/2015 As an addendum, although it has taken longer than I like to learn elements of Unity, it is proceeding and it will be entertaining and useful to pursue this at least as far as doing a non-trivial trial application, maybe something in the so-called VR world which is certainly trendy right now]

My "Hello, world" script in C# for Unity.  From tiny acorns might oaks grow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Words Stolen from the English Language

First Uber, then Jaunt, two of my favorite words, now gone forever. Or at least as long as I live.

It used to be that I could show some multilingual sophistication by creating Germanic compound words, using Uber, such as uberdog, uberschmuck, and uberswine, just to name three. But now with Uber, the taxi service which is worth billions because it is able to find a way to employ the masses of unemployed that the US has created with globalization and with failing to provide any alternative for them, Uber is forever associated, in this country at least, with that quasi-taxi scam.

In other words, a favorite word has been stolen from me, and I dont like it.

Another such word is Jaunt. You may not be aware that “jaunt” a rather rare but normal part of the English language also has a secret meaning and a secret history. One of the most important early science fiction novels is/was The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester in which teleportation is called “jaunting”, or “to jaunt”. Now it will probably lose that meaning because everyone will assume you mean the new, very well financed, VR game company.

You want to steal a word from me, fine. Love you too.

An early use of the concept of synesthesia

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Tourist Guide to Cemeteries, War Zones and Prisons

I have come across a site which will be of interest to all readers of Global Wahrman.

A former academic linguist by the name of Peter Hohenhaus has created a site which catalogs for the international traveler sites of interest for those who are entertained by the macabre or darker side of history.

Such sites would include famous cemeteries, battlefields, unused nuclear reactors, missile launch sites, sites of massacres and crimes against humanity and so forth. His categories include grave tourism, cult of personality tourism, prison and persecution tourism, communist tourism, cold war tourism, disaster area tourism and so forth.

His sites include all the big hits of recent history.

Everything is very well organized. He offers practical experience, what is involved in visiting most of these sites, and so forth. Its quite a resource.

Dr. Hohenhaus himself 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why the Socialists Will Always Be a Fringe Party in American Politics

For the first time in my life, there is a candidate for the President for the United States for a major party who has a chance of winning the nomination who is also, at least in part, a Socialist. There have been many presidents and even more candidates with agendas that came originally from a Socialist agenda, suitably sanitized and sold to the American public, but none to the best of my knowledge that could explicitly identify their origin as Socialist.   And there have been major candidates (and contenders) who have been slandered by their opponents as being Socialists, or even card-carrying Communists, who of course were nothing of the sort.  

But as long as one hides the origins of ideas, a reasonable portion of the Socialist agenda from the 1920s and the 1930s were achieved in this country for a period of time, such things as the 5-day and 40 hr work week are all from the Socialist agenda and were opposed by all the major parties as being too radical, back in the day.

So with Bernie Sanders being a leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, I thought it would be interesting to see how the “real” Socialists, the hardcore, the truly committed, what they thought about his progress.

The answer is too predictable to even be funny.

They hate him.

No, more than that. They passionately despise him.

You see, a real Socialist would never work with the Democratic Caucus in Congress. A real Socialist would never, ever disagree with the Party Line in any way. To do so would be betrayal, and that is what Bernie is in their eyes. A traitor to the cause.

So helpfully, has published a nice 6 page article on all the things you must be willing to die for to be a Socialist, or you are not a Socialist.

For example, in order to be a Socialist, you must immediately call for the destruction of Israel in order to protest their “genocidal” policies against the “Palestinians” or you are not a Socialist. Say again, what? Although I think that pretty much every American wishes that particular conflict to go away and many of us are aware that it never will, to make that a precondition for Socialism means that the Socialists have no interest in being in any way a part of the mix of American politics.

This helpful piece goes further into the beliefs of a real Socialist, but most of all he makes clear that any failure to completely support *all* of these issues means that you are not a Socialist.  What I like about this approach is that it is very clear.  Clear writing is important.  Ambiguity can be good as well, but ambiguity allows doubt.  Ambiguity might promote inclusiveness and the point of this well written article is the opposite of inclusiveness.  If one could be a "Cafeteria Socialist" then there are many of their proposed economic policies that I think Americans would find appropriate.

Its all very well to say that we must prosecute Pres Bush and Pres Obama for war crimes, but I think it is going to be hard to build a consensus to go after both of them.   In fact I would venture that about half the American public would agree to one but not the other, and the other half the reverse.   

Unilaterally destroy all nuclear weapons?  That would be nice!  Call for full employment and unionized workplaces?  Absolutely.   Declare Global Warming an emergency and invest in renewable energy and turn away from fossil fuels.  I am all for it.  Nationalize all public utilities, banks, railroads and energy companies? You bet. Give full citizenship immediately to all undocumented workers?   Hmmm, thats quite a few people, isnt it  Give $600/week to anyone who is unemployed or disabled.  Sure! Demilitarize all police (e.g. disarm all police).  Uhh, well, uhh.

And he goes on and on and on, irrespective of whether or not any of these can achieve a legislative majority, and certainly without prioritizing.  They are all equally important.  I think by the time he is through there might be several 1000 people nationwide who will agree with his entire agenda.  Maybe.

Impractical is not the word.

I like it when he goes on to say ... 

Socialists do not sacrifice the weak and the vulnerable, especially children, on the altars of profit. And the measure of a successful society for a socialist is not the GDP or the highs of the stock market but the right of everyone, especially children, never go to bed hungry, to live in safety and security, to be nurtured and educated, and to grow up fulfill his or her potential. Work is not only about a wage, it is about dignity and a sense of self-worth.

Whether our Socialist likes it or not, or whether the Tea Party likes it or not, the American political system is based on being able to find a workable compromise.  Extremists who insist on moral purity make the system unworkable as the Tea Party has proven so well over the last decade or so.

So what this article convinces me is that Socialism, at least in its pure form, does not have a chance in hell in the American political system, short, perhaps, of armed revolution.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pat Cole, Kathy White, Nancy Bernstein, Brian Jennings: In Memoriam

All of the above were each in their own way involved in the early days of computer animation, Pat Cole was earlier than any of the others. Nancy was involved in NY, the rest mostly in Los Angeles, and in Pat's case also SF.

Pat Cole first came to my attention when she worked at JPL for Dr. Jim Blinn and Bob Holtzmann. She was also responsible for some very important early parties in Los Angeles, where I met many people. I know that she struggled with some sort of very long term illness for many years before she passed away.

Kathy White had been a technical director at Robert Abel & Associates after I was no longer there and then was one of the early technical directors at Rhythm & Hues. I barely knew the woman, but she was friends of friends and seemed like a very nice person. She was also depressed and her passing was unexpected to many.

Nancy Bernstein was an early producer at R/Greenberg & Associates and then came out west to work at Digital Domain. She died after a long illness.

Brian Jennings was a computer animator who worked at Kroyer, at deGraf/Wahrman and many other places. He moved to India and seemed to love the place. His passing was a surprise and a shock.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Is Applying to Graduate School Self-Destructive?

At this point I am well into the process of applying for graduate school, although I am also in the awkward, anxiety driven stage where literally none of the important milestones have been achieved.

And so the the topic “applying to graduate school when outside the normal demographic” or some other title to-be-determined will become a formal topic of this blog.

As is often the case in this blog, the reasons for having such a topic, which could potential expose me to public derision or embarrassing failure, include the usual ones of (a) working through my own issues during this process and (b) as a lesson to the others who might have similar aspirations.

It is probable that the topics of this blog will change as this and other activities become more active.

It is probable that I will become unavailable to write for the blog as I slam into deadlines, although sometimes the reverse is true in that the blog becomes a meritorious way of procrastinating.

It is probable that I will create posts that accurately explain what I have learned and what I feel about them in the context of expectations about life and society, and that these posts will then mysteriously disappear as I reconsider whether they can be part of a public image.

This latter is pretty sad because these posts are usually among the most interesting, and I already have pretty high standards of self-deprecation, so these extreme posts can be entertaining. But thats too bad, as it is this blog could use more editorial to keep it on track and avoid random diversions and self indulgence.

The first topic, probably, coming soon is why in the world I would do something as silly as applying to graduate school.

More later.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Understanding Kusonoki Masashige


More good information from Yayoi which needs to be added to this post.  Let there be no doubt, whatever was originally meant by this epigram, I am sure that it is not the meaning that I would want it to have.

I came across an intriguing poem, or maybe an epigram, written by a historical figure of 13th century Japan, Kusonoki Masashige, who is as famous in Japan as Abraham Lincoln or Brad Pitt is in America.  

It seemed to me that this poem had been translated in a way that probably left out a lot of nuance that would be clear to someone Japanese when read in that language, but to a contemporary American was somewhat inscrutable.

It did not help to discover that this poem had been used as the motto of one or more of the Japanese Special Attack Units of World War 2, nor did it help to discover, after I first wrote this post, that it had been used by Pynchon in Gravity's Rainbow.  It just reinforced the impression that there was some sort of deeper meaning concealed within.

This epigram/whatever is apparently so well known that it has its own abbreviation in Japan, based on the Chinese characters HI RI HO KEN TEN.

In one translation to English we read

        Wrong cannot prevail over Truth
        Nor Truth conquer the Law
        The Law cannot prevail over Power
        Nor Power conquer Heaven

Although Thomas Pynchon would translate it as 

        Injustice cannot conquer Principle, 
        Principle cannot conquer Law, 
        Law cannot conquer Power, 
        Power cannot conquer Heaven

We will update this post as more information is acquired.

So my first guess for what this means is as follows: An unjust act, however excused, can never triumph over the principle of what is right and what is wrong. Stealing from the poor as the banks do in this country can never be the right thing. But that principle of right and wrong can not triumph over the laws of a society, however unjust. Thus when the banks conspire with the judiciary to impose grossly unfair tariffs on the poor to punish them for being poor, then the law overrides the principle of right and wrong, even though the principle still holds.  But the laws of a society will submit to power. In Japanese society this might have been the power of the individual lords, in America this may mean the power of wealth and privilege. So a wealthy man steals and nothing is done but a poor man goes to jail for life. Power conquers the law. But ultimately power must submit to Heaven, the powers of life and death.   

This is probably not what Masashige meant, this is just my first effort at understanding this.  So far, none of my Japanese knowledgeable friends have been able to help.  One thought is that Law refers to Dharma, but that would not work with my definition here.



1 The quote from Pynchon is:

2. A french glossary found on Google Books has the following

3. Kusunoki Masashige's page on Wikipedia:

4. Japanese Special Attack Units on Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fan Service in Space Movies: An Evolving Artform

In his work on Smut, the American poet and philosopher Tom Lehrer once said

    All books can be indecent books
    Though recent books are bolder
    For filth, I'm glad to say, is in
    The mind of the beholder

                  (Lehrer, 1-4)

The sexual exploitation of women in film is a much misunderstood tradition that goes back to the very origins of the filmmaking craft.  What is not normally acknowledged however is the rich variety and subtle nuance of sexist exploitation, from mere "fan service" to plot-motivated actresses in skimpy outfits.  In this post we propose to review some of the details of the myriad forms that cheesy exploitation of women can assume, in particular with reference to movies that take place in what we used to call Outer Space.

One important distinction between the greater and lesser uses of exploitation is whether having scantily clad women (and in a very few cases, men) is whether there is even the most shallow excuse for the exploitation in the story.  Just like in American musical theatre any song is supposed to advance the story, the same should be true for the exploitation of women.  The lowest form of exploitation is that which has no possible reason or justification.

The Japanese term-of-art for the gratuitous insertion of scantily clad women, or men, or aliens, in order to stimulate the viewer is "fan service" which simply provides without reason whatever viewer stimulation the intended audience prefers.

On the higher and more refined part of town, though, one can work elements consisting of women in spandex into the raison d'etre of the film and thus reinforce the important ideas that underlie the film experience.  One film in particular that did this well was Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968) in which the sexually active lead, a woman ahead of her time, played by Jane Fonda, causes the Orgasmatron-like Excessive machine to expire after a sex marathon with Ms. Fonda thus demonstrating her superior capacity for pleasure.  No cheap exploitation of women here.

And certainly we can say that the casting and costuming of Ms. Jovavitch in Luc Besson's Fifth Element (1997) was motivated by the highest ideals of the motion picture industry.

Milo Jovovitch from the Fifth Element (1997), above, and an unknown actress from Planet of the Vampires (1965).  

The cinema must move on from these brilliant yet analog expressions of cheesy exploitation and find new ways to demean themselves.  Directors and producers struggle to find appropriate and stylistically valid ways to exploit women of both genders in order to increase the appeal and the box office of their creative works.

We are less than a month away from the release of The Martian (2015) and the material released so far seems to give very little opportunity to exploit women.   This has left many scholars and fans of the cinematic arts worried that Ridley Scott may let down the side.

This film has unusual conventions for a space movie.  Most movies set in space will generally make use of a giant robot or a superhero or two, perhaps an alien race of Amazon Women, or other sophisticated plot elements that naturally provide opportunities for the filmmaker in collaboration with their costume designer

But things are not so easy in The Martian as the various female leads are supposed to be serious working professionals, and thus diving into the gutter to pander to the adolescent male of all ages requires some sophistication and sophistication has never been known as a motion-picture industry strong point.  If this were a James Bond movie, it would be straightforward to simply introduce one of the female leads in a scuba outfit, but this is space, the final frontier, sans superheroes, or even Uhura, or other Star Trek rebooted characters, so what is a filmmaker to do?

As you can see from several of the recent Star Treks, the role of women in space cinema has come a long way

Not only is the The Martian a hardcore, mostly scientific man-vs-nature adventure film about an astronaut marooned on Mars, but it is a Mars very explicitly without any Martian Princesses lounging around. At first glance its hard to see where exactly the sexist exploitation of women can be derived.

Nevertheless, a few stills from a viral marketing promo about this upcoming film gives us hope. Its subtle, true, but it makes us optimistic for the future.

Good posture, don't you think?

I want to encourage Ridley Scott and his filmmaking team to grasp this opportunity with both hands and supply the fan service for which he is known.  It is small things like this that can cheer up the otherwise pointless and dreary lives of their audience.



1. Tom Lehrer. Smut can be found at

2. Those interested in reading further should check out the Wikipedia page on
Catsuits and Jumpsuits in Popular Media.

3. The Martian(2015) on IMDB

4. Barbarella (1968) on IMDB  

5. Planet of the Vampires (1965) on IMDB

Monday, September 7, 2015


First animated film that I have seen in years that I loved.   A story of very appealing characters drawn from Greek mythology in daily life.

Enola Gay Smithsonian Exhibit Disaster Part 2

In this post, I review the book that historians wrote about the issues involved in the disaster of the Enola Gay exhibition at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, a disaster that was very public and very embarrassing for the historians involved. You can find this book here.  You can read a synopsis I wrote about some of the issues here.

This post is likely to be only interesting to those of you who are interested in museums, or historiography, or possibly how the history of the cold war is interpreted for the public.  The rest of you should skip this and move on to more entertaining posts.

There are four questions I had in mind when I read this book. The first was whether the accusations that veterans made about the historians during this encounter were in any way validated by this book. The second was whether the historians were disingenuous in how they presented the issues here. The third was about whether the historians gave any serious credence to what people who had been involved in the event told them. And the fourth was whether the historians involved should have realized that they were about to cause a major controversy and whether they took reasonable steps to prevent it.

1. During and after the Enola Gay exhibit controversy, which you had to be deaf not to have heard about at the time it occurred, two accusations were made by the veteran associations about the historians writing the exhibit. The first was that the historians were adamant that they were going to present revisionist conclusions about this event whatever the veterans thought and the second was that the historians involved were incredibly, unbelievably arrogant. After reading this book from the historians point of view, I can tell you that without doubt the historians involved were adamant that they were going to present their revisionist point of view and that furthermore as far as they were concerned that was the only legitimate point of view, period. And the second impression I got, dripping from every page, was exactly how superior the historians thought they were to anyone else involved. Exactly like the veterans said. No misunderstanding there, whatsoever.

2. One of the things I look for in reading arguments from one side or another of a debate, is how well they present issues that I happen to know something about. If, let us say, there are 20 issues discussed and it just so happens that I know very well what is involved in two of them, I look with special interest at those two. It lets me judge to what extent those other 18 issues are presented in good faith. This is especially useful in the situation where one side admits honestly to something that does not help their argument, but they do so anyway in the interests of fairness. This may be a lot to ask, but I do it anyway.

At one point, the argument is made that the B-29 was an uninteresting airplane technically or aeronautically (is that a word?) and in and of itself had no particular justification for being in the Air & Space Museum. They even trot out an Air Force Officer to make that comment and then leave it there in the book as being decided. The B-29 was uninteresting.

This is an astonishing misrepresentation of the facts. It is so outrageous as to call into doubt anything else the authors of the book say. The B-29 was not only an incredible technological achievement, it was an achievement that had to be reached in order for the Army Air Corps to make their argument that they deserved to be a separate service and this is all intertwined with the history of aviation and the theory of strategic bombing. The B-29 was the technology that was going to prove this principle and it was the second most expensive R&D project of the war.  In other words, it was not only technologically interesting, it was of tremendous importance to the history of how we fought the war and how we planned the future of aviation. Without doubt, this plane and the effort to create it, deserves a place in the history of aviation.  The B-29 deserves to be at the Air & Space Museum.

 It makes me wonder just who they thought was going to read this book that they would make such an outrageous misstatement.  But this behavior fits the model that says that the historians of this period live in their own world and believe what they want to believe.  

Years after this disaster, the Smithsonian restored the Enola Gay, presumably over their dead body, and exhibited it at their secondary location outside Washington.  They still have not told the amazing story of the 509th Composite Group to the best of my knowledge.

The second issue is a bit more subtle but without doubt demonstrates bad faith on the part of the historians. At one point, they talk about how much money was spent to restore the Enola Gay with the implication of “there, are you happy now” referring to, in their opinion, the childish wishes of the veterans. What the book fails to tell you, but I happened to know, is that the Enola Gay had been treated like garbage by the Smithsonian, and left to rot and rust for decades in spite of the complaints of the veterans and the Air Force. The reason it cost so much to restore was because the Smithsonian had treated this artifact with contempt. But this was not mentioned.

In other words, the historians who wrote this book were completely ok with misrepresenting the facts to try and win their argument. Lying was not a problem for them. This is a bad way to get credibility, it seems to me.

3. If there is one thing that this book makes clear, the historians involved did not give a fuck what the veterans thought. As far as the historians were concerned, the veterans were unintelligent, ignorant children relative to a brilliant academic historian. They were given no credible voice in the dialog until the veterans and the Air Force forced the issue..

4. Should the historians have realized they were walking into a touchy situation and somehow avoided it? I think that they did know that what they were saying was controversial but they thought they would come out OK for one very good reason. They assumed that everyone understood going in that there was one truth, and only one truth. And that truth is what the historians said it was. Period. There could be no other truth, no other truth had any credibility. The veterans were just children, immature children who did not want to admit, naturally, that they had murdered all those innocent Japanese for no reason. That was the only conclusion, a historian conclusion, and that was that.

So, to ask the question, were the historians involved in this disaster arrogant?

No, not arrogant. Not merely arrogant. Unbelievably arrogant.

The book was a fabulous eye opener for me. It brought doubt on the credibility of the academic field of history and of historians, at least historians of the modern period. In that sense, the book was very successful beyond its goals.   It not only explained the disaster of the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit, it lowered the credibility of the field of academic history in general.

Good work, guys.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Enola Gay Smithsonian Exhibit Disaster Part 1

draft being rewritten

I can not imagine why anyone would care what. I think about anything related to the issues discussed in this post, unless they had some interest in the "popular understanding of history by a citizen" or something of that nature.  I recommend you skip this post unless you happen to be specifically interested in the issues discussed here.

I read a book about the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Enola Gay exhibit, a disaster of monumental scale, a nuclear explosion if you will, in which the veterans, the Air Force, the US Congress compelled the Smithsonian to back off from an exhibit which they were far along in creating.   The book is called "History Wars" and it presents the historians point of view on the subject and the larger issues of the interpretation of history.

I expected the book to be a balanced discussion of the issues that also showed that the situation had spun out of control and that the Smithsonian certainly was not planning to do an exhibit that would have presented the veterans or this country guilty of all sorts of nasty things.   But in fact the book did not do that, the book instead presented the very clear point of view that there was one way to interpret history, it was the historians way, and any other opinion was wrong.

So I wanted to write about this book and the exhibit but to do so I felt I had to explain something about the situation that the book describes and to do that is a Vietnam-like morass of complicated issues.  Issues that do not lend themselves to simple sound bites.

And so this post is the attempt to get a basic synopsis of the issues behind the incident.  I am sorry.  Feel free to ignore it and don't think worse of me because of it.   I don't know whether we should have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima or what would have happened if we had invaded the home islands of Japan, or whether the Japanese would have surrendered immediately anyway, or any of dozens of other fascinating and unanswerable questions.   I know that the dropping of the bomb was not a casual decision and I know what the veterans thought about what the sudden ending of the war meant to them and their lives because they were very clear about that topic both at the time and now.

So forgive me, here is the background, and then there will be post on what my impression of the historian side of the story.

The book discussed here can be found on at  "History Wars" 

To recap, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum planned an exhibit about the mission on August 6, 1945 to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The centerpiece of that exhibit would be the Enola Gay, the highly modified B-29 that actually dropped the bomb (there were 7 B-29s on that mission that day, but the Enola Gay carried the bomb itself). It might sound straightforward but it was anything but straightforward and here are some of the reasons.

1. The Smithsonian had the Enola Gay for decades but had refused to exhibit it. It was literally left out to rot in the rain and snow getting progressively more decrepit and rusted. Their actions were perceived for what they were, contempt for the history of this country, contempt for the veterans. The Air Force begged for the Smithsonian to give this historic plane to them so that they could restore it and show it in one of their museums, but the Smithsonian refused. The plane stayed in the rain and snow and rotted.  This did not exactly endear the Smithsonian to the Air Force or the veterans.

2. The dropping of the atomic bomb was an unusually specific event that could be said to end one era and begin another. Usually these transitions are more amorphous and take place over years or decades. But because the atomic bomb either was apparently the immediate cause of the end of WW 2 and the beginning of the cold war and the nuclear age, it presented many difficult historical problems that any exhibit either had to address or ignore, but a decision had to be made about them and no decision could be a decision. Realize also that accomplishment of dropping that bomb was the culmination of at least three different important efforts that we, the United States, took during that war.   Most people know of the Manhattan Project, but the creation of the B-29 and the story of the unit that dropped the bomb was no where near as well known.

3. There are very strong differences of opinion about the value of dropping the atomic bomb and its role in ending the war in the Pacific. But there was no doubt in the minds of anyone in the US armed services in the Pacific that it had ended the war and that it had saved their lives by doing so. But many Americans who certainly know we dropped the bomb that day are not as aware of why the veterans thought it had saved their lives.    (3)

4. The people at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum determined that their exhibit about the Enola Gay and the dropping of the bomb was going to be a "balanced exhibit", in their words, that talked about many different points of view about the event.   From the veteran point of view, this meant that they would be portrayed as heartless killers of children who had dropped a bomb for no good reason. . If America had not had to drop the bomb and if it was an immoral act then arguably America could be accused of committing a war crime in doing so and this was obvious to the veterans who were not amused by this.

5. It should be remembered that this was no mere article in a magazine somewhere, this was the premiere United States aviation museum passing judgment on the morality of dropping the bomb on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the event and the end of WW 2.

Before I go further in describing the controversy around the exhibit I want to digress for just a moment on the role of the bomb in causing Japan to surrender and whether Japan knew it was defeated and was planning to surrender anyway.  Both of these issues are fabulously complex and controversial.   Most of all it requires the historian, professional or otherwise, to put themselves into the position of what was known at the time vs what was known later.   And to understand things outside the experience of most normal people (like what is involved in invading the home islands of Japan and what it would mean to delay such an invasion to let things evolve). (2)

6. But drop the bomb we did, and shortly thereafter began a firestorm of controversy about whether the bomb needed to be dropped to end the war. 50 years later, the Smithsonian wrote a draft of the planned exhibit, and that exhibit was leaked both to the Air Force and to various veteran groups. Of course it should have been leaked, it should have been sent for review by those groups. Surely the Smithsonian did not think they could just surprise people with the exhibit and their interpretation of the event?

7. The resultant explosion was everything that could be desired and more so. The veterans went nuclear, so to speak, and called for the Smithsonian's blood. The Smithsonian retaliated by ripping the wings off the Enola Gay and exhibiting it without an exhibition. No interpretation or story at all. It just hangs wingless in the Smithsonian (it has since been moved to the new gallery outside Washington and had its parts restored). The head of the Smithsonian and a few specific historians returned to academia. The veterans got nothing, the historians got nothing, the Smithsonian had completely dropped the ball. 

The Enola Gay without its wings, with one propeller on the wall, and no discussion of what happened

It was an unmitigated disaster for the Smithsonian as they had failed, utterly failed, to represent in any reasonable way the event, the technology, the end of the war, the story of the dropping of the bomb, anything.

A total failure.

But it wasn't over yet.

End of part 1.


1. The other two are on the origins and legality of the American Civil War and a post on writing the genre of prediction with special reference to lessons learned from Nostradamus, a very misunderstood writer of fiction.

2. There are many, many controversies. A partial list includes: (a) that we were about one month away from the invasion of Japan and we knew this was going to be very bloody (b) that Japan knew we were very close to invading and had every intention of fighting and had worked with initiative to prepare and had done a very competent job of that given their situation at the time, (c) that the bombing of the Japanese cities had caused vast destruction and misery to all sectors of Japanese society and yet had not apparently destroyed their determination to fight and there is no doubt that situation caused many Americans in leadership positions to wonder what exactly was going to be necessary to cause Japan to surrender, (d) that Japan leadership knew they had lost the war but hoped to negotiate an end to the war that allowed them to keep their empire in Korea and Manchuria, although the extent that this is true is certainly debatable, (e) that the American people wanted this war over now, (f) that the USSR having completed the war in Europe was now moving to assist us in the far east in Manchuria and people were sensitive to the role that Stalin and the USSR would play in the post-war world, and some historians consider it immoral for us to consider this issue in the decision to hurry the end of the war by dropping the bomb, (g) and last but not least, unlike Germany, the Japanese armies were undefeated in the field in China and Korea and did not see a terribly pressing need to surrender all that they had been fighting for. Yes, the home islands were suffering, yes in fact they were all suffering, but from their point of view they were far from defeated.

3. It should be no surprise that the average American does not know their own history on this matter, but it is odd that the historians do not. There are those who claim that this is because historians are ignorant of the fundamental issues that they study and there is quite a bit to support that argument. At the time the bomb was dropped, we were in a terrific struggle with the Japanese and people were dying by the scores every day, both Americans and Japanese. We never had a defense against the suicide attacks on ships. They never had a defense against our incendiary bombing of Japan or the unrestricted submarine war on their merchant shipping.

By far more Japanese were dying than Americans, but that was about to change because we were literally within eight weeks of an invasion of the Japanese home islands that would probably make the invasion of Normandy look peaceful in comparison.  Projected casualties varied wildly depending on who did the predictions. When Truman took office after Roosevelt, probably his single most important issue to address was how to bring the war to a successful conclusion with a minimum of casualties.  What you, the non professional, need to understand is that for an invasion of this scope 8 weeks is almost no time at all, its not even a weekend. You should think of it as 15 minutes before midnight. It means that all the ships, planes, munitions, etc are built and in place, and all the men are trained and in position (not quite, but almost, I exaggerate here a little). It means that the hospital ships are built, and the doctors and nurses trained, and most of the medical supplies are ready to go, or nearly so.

When the bomb was dropped and the war suddenly and unexpectedly ended, there were several million Americans in uniform getting ready to storm the beaches and support that activity. These people to the last person, as far as I can tell from reading mostly secondary sources and a few primary ones, believed that the dropping of the atomic bomb saved their lives because it made it unnecessary to invade the Japanese home islands.   For those who believe that the war was over, and that Japanese knew they had lost, you are invited to learn about the invasion of Okinawa and what that entailed.

But since we did not actually invade Japan, the number of casualties is of course not known, and many people who have studied the issue (but who were not there) have a different opinion of what would have happened had we not dropped the bomb.

Friday, September 4, 2015

FOIA FBI Background Check on Anna Rosenberg

In recent years there has been a variety of issues that involve security background checks and the questions people have about what information is kept on them. But the examples used of government files are not representative because they are usually of people who are very involved in a variety of non-trivial, non-subtle and controversial areas.

A classic example of that in today's news is the FOIA request by Laura Poitras who has been detained by Homeland Security whenever she has entered or left the country and received various “no fly” judgments on attempting to board an aircraft. I am sure that her file is quite interesting and I am also sure that when we see it, it will be the kind of unusual or controversial file that I am referring to above. Why? Because, as Ms. Poitras knows very well, she is under suspicion for and is certainly a collaborator in what is probably the single most damaging and extraordinary intelligence disaster in the history of this country, possibly any country. So of course she is being investigated, and of course the file will contain intelligence information as well as information that is part of various criminal investigations that have not yet completed (and for which charges have not (yet) been filed).

But what does a normal file look like, one that is of a serious and senior professional who has worked for the government, worked for private industry and knows many people, some of whom are or were presidents of the United States, and some of whom were certainly controversial in one way or another, in this case because they were heavily involved in the labor movement of the 1930s.

I happened to come across an online version of the FBI background check file on Anna Rosenberg who was a labor relations consultant before and after WW 2.  She was attacked by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee during the McCarthy period when she was nominated for a government post. She served on a variety of government committees that involved labor relations particularly as it involved the war effort. She worked directly for Pres. Roosevelt at various times.

I think that her FBI file is well worth glancing act to see what is involved, the kinds of questions they asked, the things they noted that caused them concern, etc.

True, this is about a person from another era, a post WW 2 era, but I suspect it has things in common with similar activities today (e.g. extended background checks on people nominated for government service or who require a security clearance). The Internet makes this process easier, but by no means does it do all the work that needs to be done.

So if you are interested in such things, take a fast look at this. It can be found at

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria by Dennis

draft, being rewritten

In a continuing series on "materials to use to procrastinate" we have the work by George Dennis who has written about the Etruscan cities and cemeteries of Etruria, ancient Etrusca, in what we now call Italy.

Its a combination archaeological guide and travel guide and filled with helpful tidbits of where to stay and who to ask to guide you around, referring to people and lodges long dead or out of business a century ago.

This is in the period when Italy was still filled with unlooted tombs, when you could walk into an ancient tomb and still find helmets, spears, urns, vases, and beautiful paintings some of which are sketched and included as part of this narrative.

Anyone interested in the archaeology of the West should read this fabulous travel guide.

The poverty of the people of Italy at the time is also made clear.

I was left with a profound desire to go and visit.  Would a virtual tour of the places cited in this document as they are today be of any interest, I wonder.

Find this document on the internet, a bold new paradigm, here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Blog is not a Career and Other Notes

This is a continuation of the ongoing series of what has been learned from writing this blog in the hope that it may be of value to others who are thinking of, or are actively writing, a blog. Previous posts can be found by clicking on the tag admin.

Some of these comments have been made before.  It just means that I still think they are true.

The blog seems to have an audience, or rather audiences, who are interested in some but not all of the various topics I write about.

There is a direct and positive relationship between posts and traffic. There is a direct and positive relationship between the amount of traffic and the effort made on posts, up to a point.

But even trivial posts can be better than no posts at all for generating audience. It seems to be a positive reinforcement phenomenon which is not a surprise.

The metrics generated by are sufficient to give direction on what people are reading, and when, and so forth.

The nuisance traffic seems to be less.

The time to write a post does not get less as time goes by. An interesting post still takes time. Yes, on days when I am more focused and know what I want to write I can do so quickly and on days when I am less sure what the topic is or need to switch topics, it can take more time.

The blog is not in and of itself a career.

Like any other long-term project, certain goals and themes get lost and require serious effort to achieve.

In particular, certain themes which are (hopefully) the basis of a book (whatever a book may be these days) need more traction.

Certain themes have made sufficient progress on the blog, but not in real life. In other words, writing much more about a topic would not be as useful as taking other actions to help make those things happen.

The editorial function for the blog (in other words, acting as my own editor) has always been an issue as it is for most blogs. The most obvious way this manifests itself are (a) posts that never see the light of day but which I spend a lot of time on, then choose not to publish and (b) posts that are determined to be too negative and whiny and are, after a few days or weeks, eliminated.

The goal of the editorial is to make the blog more useful, productive and readable in the long run. In the short run, that means eliminating some posts that are honest but digressive.

It is the long term issues of traction on major themes, and the discipline of self-editorial, that seem to be the most important right now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Search for Nazi Gold and Computer Animation

On the occasion of a very disappointing Siggraph for those of us struggling to make a living with computer animation and failing, as so many do, several colleagues have suggested the idea that searching for Nazi gold could be a viable career alternative.

Of course, they are responding to the recent events in Europe where two different stories about Nazi gold have been in the press. In one case, a young woman found a mysterious ingot of gold at the bottom of a shallow lake in the German alps with its identifying marks scratched off. And in the other, two people in Poland claim to know the location of a train that was allegedly hidden by the Nazis in a labyrinth of railroad tunnels at the end of World War 2.

At first glance, this activity might seem a promising way to make a living, at least in comparison with the disaster of computer animation, but I think when we review all the facts it will become clear that there are other potential career paths, like art fraud or laundering money, which have a better chance of being successful.

Its hard for Americans to relate to the European concept of treasure hoards littered around the countryside, left behind by invading hordes as it were, hoards from the hordes, whether  Roman hordes, Anglo Saxon hordes, Crusaders acting like hordes, Moors, Normans, Danish, Vikings and what-have-you raping and pillaging and stealing everything they can get their hands on, only to melt it all down and bury it for safe keeping, there to be found by a nerdy but sincere metal detection wielding citizen who has been searching relentlessly every weekend for the last 30 years.  The facts are that some people do this in Europe (search every weekend) and every once in a while they really do find something. (1) 

Aside from these more official discoveries, there are also signs that other, less formal, activities are taking place behind the scenes with good results. An annoying number of previously unknown fine art objects regularly show up on the antiquities market having been plundered from an ancient grave by some scumbag who has been tempted by an evil antiquities broker. Some of these dastardly folks only pretend to plunder graves, they dishonestly forge ancient art items and shamelessly sucker some corrupt collector or curator into buying them in a variation of the famous adage “you can not cheat an honest curator”.

But as romantic as these more ancient hoards are, the real action is in caches of art and gold left behind by everyone's favorite, the National Socialists in the period roughly 1944-1945. As thieves and murderers, the National Socialists of the last world war were in a class all to themselves. First they would roll the Wehrmacht in, then they would roll the gold out of national treasurys, the art out of the museums, and the Jews into the camps stealing everything they ever had along the way. When you melt down a million gold dentures, it just looks like gold bars to those helpful Swiss bankers who are always happy to launder money for the criminal du jour. Some things never change.

But do we really think that there is a lot more to find out there? The problem is that it is very hard to tell. Officially, we know of lots of things that are still missing. But who is to say that some of this missing gold was found but no formal press release issued? Who is to say which famous trainloads of decadent art were hidden in an abandoned mine instead of being destroyed by aerial bombardment on its way there? What 100 tons of gold were processed by the Swiss, what disappeared into the Tsar's vault in Moscow, what treasure from Troy now lies in the basement beneath the Hermitage waiting a year, a century, a millinnia before it sees the light of day?

Keep in mind also, that while the average computer animator knows hardship and rough working conditions, he or she has rarely dealt with abandoned mines, networks of crumbling railroad tunnels filled with unexploded munitions, or deposits at the bottom of very deep, very cold lakes. Yes a computer animator knows how to endure hardship only to be disappointed. But for every hoard found by a metal detection practitioner, how many others work for decades for a handful of copper?

The odds are as likely that you will write a screenplay that gets made into a successful movie. Or that you will be recognized for your talent and invited to direct a film. One seems about as likely as the other, being successful in the motion picture industry or finding a cache of Nazi gold. If you have to go through the trouble of changing your career, I recommend finding something with more likelihood of success.


1. The most famous recent example of this is the fabulous story of Maj (ret) Tony Clunn of the British Army, MBE, who discovered the location of the famous battle of Teutoberger Wald in Germany.  See