Archive for November, 2009

Liberalism isn’t either

Friday, November 13th, 2009

As a follow-up on Conservatism isn’t, I found it necessary to say that “liberalism” also isn’t applied to its meaning, but to two different things, depending on European or American cultural background.

As per definition, liberalism is “the belief in the importance of individual freedom”. This is of course the opposite of “totalitarianism”, and not the opposite of “conservatism” (whose opposite would be “progressivism”).

Now, in Europe, liberalism has taken on the meaning of a hard “economic liberalism”, meaning “the belief in the importance of freedom for companies only”. Capitalism, if you wish. In the USA, it has taken quite another meaning, some kind of “social liberalism”. This is a bit more difficult to express with a similar phrase like the above, it’s more like “Welfare is more important than freedom” (on the other side, the European version from above could be put as “Economy is more important than freedom”).

The main point about both these views is, that “liberalism” is not any more associated with individual freedom, but in one case with a freedom for business to override individual freedom (in order for economy to prosper), and in the other case with the freedom of the state to override individual freedom (in order to guarantee welfare).

Apparently, liberals (in the original sense) have noticed this shift of meaning, and can now be found as “libertarians”. Apart from widely-differing opinions on everything else, they can indeed be characterised by what was initially the definition of liberalism: “the belief in the importance of individual freedom”.

Hollywood versus History

Friday, November 13th, 2009

In History…
Heroes distinguish themselves by wearing elaborate cloth and headgear
In Hollywood…
Heroes distinguish themselves by wearing no headgear, no jacket (shirt only), and generally running around like the poorest peasant.

In History…
Heroes wear helmets in battle.
In Hollywood…
Heroes take off their helmets before battle. If they ever wore a helmet.

In History…
Swords are worn in wooden or leather scabbards until late 19th century
In Hollywood…
Drawing a sword always gives a metal-on-metal sound.

In History…
Swords are worn in wooden or leather scabbards until late 19th century
In Hollywood…
Drawing a sword always gives a metal-on-metal sound.

In History…
Black powder appears 1242 on the European battlefields.
In Hollywood…
Any black powder weapon used in in the middle ages will baffle everyone, since they can’t ever have encountered it as it does not fit into Hollywoods image of the middle ages.

In History…
Nobody lights his house or castle with torches for fear of a fire.
In Hollywood…
Everyone uses torches indoors. And they don’t even need to be replaced, they will burn 50 years or more once lit, especially in caves.

In History…
Guns until about 1850 are muzzle-loaders and only fire one shot until reloaded again.
In Hollywood…
The average muzzle-loader can fire several times. And you never see anyone reloading it, because the guys in the studio also have no idea on how it’s done.

In History…
It could happen that the British capture a Nazi U-Boat and manage to decrypt the codes with the help of polish Scientists.
In Hollywood…
US-Americans will capture the U-Boat, even before they’ve even entered the war and will decrypt everything themselves. Except for the Japanese code “Purple”, because that would mean their government could have known about the attack on Pearl Harbour hours before it happened.

In History…
It often happens that no US-American is involved in some heroic deed. Or that along US-Americans other people from other nations were involved.
In Hollywood…
Some US-American saves the day. If somebody else did it, US-Americans did it now. If somebody helped, like some thousands of Canadian troops, they are not shown in the movie.

In History…
A knight is proud of being a knight, tries to behave as such and certainly wears clothes and armour of a knight.
In Hollywood…
A knight might run around in a towel, a face painted blue like some picts did 1200 years earlier, and still lead a rebellion against the British.

In History…
The Scots really wore kilts, and claymores and broadswords. In the late 17th and the 18th century that is. They fought against British redcoats who mostly had muskets and bayonets.
In Hollywood…
Ah well. You already guessed it. They always do that; no matter the historical evidence.

In History…
Some cities in the middle ages found it necessary to limit bathing for its inhabitants to three times a week, because its infrastructure couldn’t live up to the demand.
In Hollywood…
People in the middle ages are always filthy, but most spot gleaming white teeth.

In History…
Plate Armour is mostly made to fit the wearer and made in the style of the time.
In Hollywood…
Plate Armour is made from whatever pieces are left from previous productions and in an style from 14th to 18th century. Except for helmets, those are in style from the early iron age to the 18th century.

In History…
People thatched their roofs very tight, 20-50cm thick.
In Hollywood…
Thatched roofs are see-trough and only on houses used by peasants.

In History…
People knew from the writings of Greek philosophers from A.D 300 upwards that the earth was round.
In Hollywood…
People from the middle-ages believe in a flat-earth.

In History…
People had a lower life-expectancy than today. Something like 60 years instead of 75. But if you factor in infant mortality, you get a mean of only 30 years.
In Hollywood…
People in the middle ages of course only have a life-expectancy of 30 years.

In History…
People wear shoes of their time, in the middle ages for instance turned-shoes without heels.
In Hollywood…
The Hero wears 19th century heeled cavalry boots.

In History…
The joined hose/trousers got out of style in the early middle ages, to be replaced by separate hoses. The joined hose comes back in the 15th century (with a codpiece).
In Hollywood…
The Hero does not wear separate hoses.

In History…
The Romans ridiculed hoses, they called them “feminalia” implying only women would wear them. And certainly would not like to wear them.
In Hollywood…
Romans wear hoses. Because the actors would feel nude, and it would conflict Hollywoods morality standards.

In History…
Most cannon-balls are just that: balls of stone or iron. The explosive shell is a relatively recent invention; explosive ammunition appears in the 17th century and is only shot by mortars. The first explosive shell for a flat-trajectory-gun appears 1823.
In Hollywood…
All guns shoot explosive shells.

In History…
People have weird haircuts in certain epochs. Long hair was considered a sign of nobility in the middle ages, and later a sign of a gentleman until the early 19th century (tough you could wear a powdered wig if you didn’t have long hair).
In Hollywood…
Hairstyles mostly reflect the time when the movie was made. Thus we get short-haired Ivanhoes, long-haired WWII aviators, and crop-haired Tudors.

In History…
The widht of belts varies with the epoch. They Merowingians wore huge belts. So did one in the 17th century. But in the middle ages, they wore very thin belts, 1-2cm in width.
In Hollywood…
It’s supposed to be historical, so people have to wear huge belts, besides some other historical movies did it like that before.

In History…
People sometimes are ugly.
In Hollywood…
Actors are not chosen by their likeness to the historical person they are supposed to represent, but according to their prominence. Behold the slim and handsome Henry VIII. And the straight-nosed Wellington.

In History…
Heroes sometimes have a very dark side as murderers, rapists or slavers.
In Hollywood…
Any dark deeds of the Hero are never shown, whereas the the designated Villain gets attributed every imaginable crime, including mass-murder, even if the historical evidence says otherwise.

See Also
Classic Cliches for the Medieval Historical Movie
Troy: Hollywood vs. Homer
Hollywood Rewrites History
Hollywood hokum: Fake history in films wipes out the facts learnt in class
Novelist condemns Hollywood’s yen to rewrite history as cultural imperialism
Hollywood Censors History (PDF)

TrueType- and Type1-Fonts in Texlive/Xetex

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Font-Management in TeX is a huge mess. It’s such a mess that there is not even one coherent tutorial on how to install fonts exists, and nobody ever automated it. Imagine: You put your TrueType or Type1 fonts somewhere into /usr/share/fonts, your system regenerates its font-cache, and they not only are available for KDE, Gnome, Mozilla and OpenOffice, but also for TeX? You wish. Instead you’re expected to produce custom font-encoding files by hand, extract font-metric-files (tfm) out of TrueType-files, invent 6-letter font-shortcut-names, and edit some other files in order that TeX can find them with these shortcut-names. In other words, the whole thing should be burned at the stake, shredded, buried and shot into outer space.

The only thing that actually works out of the Box is XeTeX/XeLaTeX:

apt-get install texlive-xetex

Now you need to know the correct name of the font you want to use, as reported by fc-list:

$ fc-list | grep Bastarda
MA Bastarda1 15th:style=Normal

And you can use this in TeX-documents:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{fontspec,xunicode,xltxtra}
\setmainfont{MA Bastarda1 15th}
\begin{document}
Test. Umlauts need to be UTF-8 encoded: ÀöÌ
\end{document}

If your TeX-document happens to use latin1 instead of utf8, recode will help:

recode latin1..utf8 whetever.tex

Now you need to use xelatex instead of texi2pdf or pdflatex to produce a pdf-file:

$ xelatex whatever.tex

That’s it, and that’s how it should bloody work everywhere, with every TeX-util of the day you might want to use.