Saturday, July 26, 2014

My perspective on “The Communist Manifesto”

Ronald Reagan

"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin." - Ronald Reagan

Vladimir Lenin

I don't think Mr. Reagan really meant that anyone who reads Marx and Lenin is a communist (I've read Marx, and I'm no communist), as the second part of the joke gives some important context for the first. Understanding Marx and Lenin usually requires reading them (as I have done), so we can take the first part of the quote to mean someone who reads Marx and Lenin without understanding them. But the second part can be taken literally, even precisely; which is why I find the joke funny. Those who understand Marx and Lenin are anti-communists.

Karl Marx

Friedrich Engels

Friday, July 18, 2014

My experience with French

Many of my Facebook friends have seen my posts about Spanish, and the various ways in which I have tried to learn the language. My experience with French is not as well-known to my friends, because I have tended not to share it as publicly. But I actually became fluent in French before I became fluent in Spanish. One of my other posts details my high school and college class experience in learning the language, so suffice it to say here that I took the equivalent of two years of college French. Those who want to know more about my experience with French classes are advised to read this blog post. I will focus this blog post on my efforts since that time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A review of "Crucible of Empire: the Spanish-American War"

I just finished watching "Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War," PBS's two-hour documentary about this time. I was generally impressed by this documentary. One of the pleasant surprises for me was that they did not just cover the American side, but also the Cuban and Filipino sides as well. They interview some Filipino historians in addition to American ones, although there are no interviews with Cubans or Spaniards. The Cuban part is more understandable, since people in this communist country cannot speak their mind freely without fear of government reprisal; but the general omission of the Spanish perspective is something of a mystery, given the pains they took to depict other perspectives.

Map of the Americas, with Cuba highlighted in red

This war was a two-front war, fought in both Cuba and the Philippines ...

This war of 1898 was really a two-front war, with fighting in both the Caribbean and the Pacific; and so the geography of the war is somewhat complicated. On the one hand, Cuba is a Caribbean island close to American Florida; but on the other hand, the Philippines are way across the Pacific Ocean, with distances comparable to those traversed during the Pacific theater of World War II. Thus, the fighting in this war was somewhat spread out.

Far side of the globe, with Philippines highlighted in green

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