Saturday, January 27, 2007


A post on Baron Ungern at Way To Russia:

"But gone are the days when you could take a capital city with a ragtag army of soldiers and mercenaries. In 1921, however, Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg, known as the Bloody Baron, did just that when he captured Ulan Bataar in one of the strangest incidents of the Russian Civil War...

"By surrounding the city and burning a huge number of camp fires he created the illusion of commanding a large army. The Chinese withdrew and the Bloody Baron entered the city and installed himself as dictator...

"Then, after some similar, short-lived shenanigans in Buryatia, he was finally captured and executed in Novisibirsk.

"In spite of his atrocities von Sternberg is often seen as a liberator by Mongolians and was declared a Mahakala incarnation by the 13th Dalai Lama. His incredible story has for some reason mostly gone untold. However, producer Alexander Proshkin did announce plans to make a film about the Bloody Baron in the near future."

It might be noted that much of the Baron's bloody reputation might have been attributable to his underlings.

It might also be noted that the shrewd Bogd Khan invited Ungern to Mongolia to help him get rid of the Chinese, and the Khan was successful. And that later, the Bogd Khan invited the Reds to Mongolia to help him get rid of Ungern, and the Khan was again successful.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On a Darkling Plain

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

excerpt from "Dover Beach," 1867
by Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888, English

Leafy Sea Dragon

The leafy sea dragon of Australia.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Coat of Arms of Nunavut

The Coat of Arms of the Territory of Nunavut features a caribou and a narwhal as its supporters.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Sumo falls to a Mongol invasion"

"Thirty-four Mongolians compete regularly in Japan's national, indigenous sport. One of them, Asashoryu, has dominated the ring since being promoted in 2003 to the highest rank of Grand Champion. Currently the only wrestler at that level, he could soon be joined by a Bulgarian, the strongest of the 14 or so East Europeans who have also broken into the sport.

"Since the 1960s there have always been a few foreigners in Sumo. Several Hawaiians made it to the top, an achievement that means adopting Japanese nationality, dress and behaviour...

"But conservative Japanese are dismayed at the recent involvement of so many outsiders. More than a sport, Sumo, with its ancient history, is steeped in the rituals of the Shinto religion that the Japanese believe only they can fully comprehend...

"And foreigners do not always behave with the necessary decorum. The Mongolian Grand Champion has been disqualified for hair-pulling and has refused to take Japanese nationality.

"The Sumo authorities, however, appreciate the excitement and ticket sales that foreign wrestlers generate."

-The First Post

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chinese Elves, Dwarves, and Wizards Conquering the World

There are as many World of Warcraft accounts in China alone – 3.5 million – as there are in all the countries of Europe, the U.S., and Canada combined. World of Warcraft - 8 Million and Counting

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You Are Going To Die Needlessly

More from the profound Nick Bostrom:

The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

"Searching for a cure for aging is not just a nice thing that we should perhaps one day get around to. It is an urgent, screaming moral imperative... If we get the cure in 25 years rather than in 24 years, a population greater than that of Canada will die as a result. In this matter, time equals life, at a rate of approximately 70 lives per minute."

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Jump high, run fast.

The Epicurean Paradox

"God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, he is weak -- and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful -- which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?"

--Epicurus, 341-270 BCE, Greek, in The Epicurus Reader, translated and edited by Brad Inwood and Lloyd P. Gerson

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Inner Mongolia - Han vs. Mongol

review by Celia Lowe of Beyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia by Dee Mack Williams:

"Although Williams does not dispute the degraded state of the land, he does contest both Chinese and Western authoritative interpretations of its meanings and causes. The author brings together culture, politics, history, and nature at international, national, and local scales to compare Mongol herders' sensibilities with those of Han and Western scientists...

"Mongol marginalization is at the heart of grassland disputes...

"Discourses of science help mask Han-Mongol antagonisms, and Williams demonstrates that Mongol notions are often accurate where scientists' theories fail...

"Whereas the research station praises its Han scientists, saying 'heart blood has become sweet dew, the desert has become an oasis,' herders restate this verse as 'an oasis has become a desert under the management of the research station'...

"One great joy in this book is Williams's ability to narrate the life stories of Mongol herders. Beyond Great Walls is a pleasure to read..."

-American Ethnologist

Monday, January 01, 2007

Get a loan on your ger

"Many banks prefer clients who can pledge rock-solid 'immovables' -- brick-and-mortar homes, for example -- as collateral which the bank can claim when borrowers do not repay their loans. But what if the immovable is, in fact, move-able? What if it is made of wool and wood, and could be picked up and carted off in the middle of the night by a debtor on the run?

"XacBank’s experience is proof of the micro-finance credo that poor people make the most reliable borrowers..."

-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development


Happy new year, and all that.