ceausescu’s last speech

Amazing video of the last public speech of Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator. For those who don’t remember that amazing stretch in 1989 when all the eastern European governments fell, Ceausescu was probably the nastiest of his cohort, and he was the only one to fall violently.
Quoth Wikipedia:

On the morning of December 21, Ceauşescu addressed a mass assembly of a hundred thousand people to condemn the uprising of Timişoara. Speaking from the balcony of the Central Committee building in the usual “wooden language”, Ceauşescu delivered a litany of the achievements of the “socialist revolution” and Romanian “multi-laterally developed socialist society”. The people, however, remained apathetic, and only the front rows supported Ceauşescu with cheers and applause…

As he was addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee building, sudden movement coming from the outskirts of the mass assembly and the sound of what various sources have reported as fireworks, bombs, or guns broke the orderly manifestation into chaos. Scared at first, the crowds tried to disperse. Bullhorns were used to spread the news that the Securitate was firing on them and that a “revolution” was unfolding, and finally the people were persuaded to join in. The rally turned into a protest demonstration and in the end a revolution emerged.

Ceauşescu, his wife, as well as other officials and CPEx members panicked, and finally Ceauşescu went into hiding inside the building. The live transmission of the meeting was interrupted, but the people who were watching had seen enough to realise that something unusual was going on.

The reaction of Ceauşescu couple is memorable, as they were staging futile attempts to regain control over the convulsing crowd using phone conversation formulas such as “Alo, Alo” (“Hello, Hello”) or Ceauşescu’s wife “advising” him how to contain the situation: “Vorbeşte-le, vorbeşte-le” (“Talk to them, talk to them”) and to the crowd “Stati liniştiti la locurile voastre” (“Sit quiet in your places”); finally Ceauşescu allowed himself to be directed inside the Central Committee building by his underlings.

Here’s the video of that last speech. The gunfire starts shortly after the 1:00 mark. The look on Ceausescu’s face is priceless. The video seems to show the government taking control again after a few minutes; it’s unclear whether the move indoors cited above takes place in the middle of this video or after its end. I don’t know Romanian well enough to tell what the crowd is chanting later on, but it seems largely supportive and not particularly revolutionary. Not that it mattered: He was shot dead four days later.

Then check out this cell-phone ad that parodies the speech:

Finally, some good photos of the revolution and its aftermath.

confederate constitution

The Confederate constitution, compared side by side with the American one. Useful for debunking claims that the Confederacy’s intellectual foundation was “states rights” or some such nonsense.
For a while now, I’ve been threatening to write a long boring post about the Dunning School of historians — the ones most responsible for the fictional account of the Civil War that is still taught in many public schools today. (If you were taught that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, but instead about states rights and tariff policy — or that Reconstruction was just a den of corruption until the Redeemers came along — your head has been screwed with by the southern apologetics of the Dunning School and its peers.)

poor, pathetic nauru

A great Economist piece on the sad tale of Nauru, the most pathetic nation in the world. I remember reading about Nauru when I was about eight years old — there was a two-page spread about them in one of the volumes of the Childcraft encyclopedia I had when I was a kid. (For the record, if you’re trying to build a powerhouse dork from the ground up, giving them Childcraft is an excellent start.)
Anyway, the Childcraft article on Nauru was all about the island nation’s usefulness to Western corporations as a massive phosphate mine. (The piece in question would have been written in the 1970s, when the phosphate wealth still flowed and Nauru’s grand bargain with the world seemed wise. As the Economist piece shows, it didn’t turn out that way.)
Nauru’s perhaps the best example of what Captain Cook wrote after seeing what Western contact had done to traditional South Pacific societies: “It would have been far better for these poor people never to have known us.”

one more cheating story

Had another story on the front page today. It’s about (surprise, surprise!) cheating:

All 699 schools suspected of cheating on the TAKS test will face a state investigation, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday.

Sort of. The word “investigation” can have many meanings.

For some schools, investigations could consist of little more than an exchange of letters. It remains to be seen how thorough investigations of 699 schools would be possible, given constraints of time and staffing.

And state officials still have no plans to seek the additional test data that would make a detailed investigation possible. For example, the state still does not know which students have the most suspicious test answer sheets.

MP3 Monday: August 21, 2006

No time for deep narratives in this week’s MP3 Monday. I’m going to post the next three tracks that show up on shuffle in iTunes. As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
Flowing” by Teenage Fanclub. From the album Man-Made (2005).
I said a few weeks ago that power-pop bands, as a rule, don’t age well. Teenage Fanclub may be one of the exceptions. They don’t bring quite as much noise now as they did in the Bandwagonesque days — but to be honest, they never brought much noise in the first place. They were always a polite, tuneful pop band, built on those great MOR Blake/McGinley/Love harmonies. Their most recent album, Man-Made, is one of my favorites of theirs, particularly this track (whose wash of guitars in the bridge nicely echoes the title) and the more brash “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
Shut It Down” by The Stepbrothers. From the compilation Shakin’ In My Boots: A Texas Rock ‘n Roll Compilation (2004).
Found these guys on a SXSW sampler a year or so back. If you believe the Rolling Stones, circa 1971, should have forcibly stopped the evolution of music — living forever in the sort of gutbucket Southern rock they had on Exile — the Stepbrothers are the band for you. Great fun, if in limited doses. Not sure if they’re still around or not; they were/are from Austin.
Take My Hand” by Sammy Davis Jr.. From the album Now (1972).
Supposedly this album is the worst thing Sammy ever recorded; not being expert in the Sammy back catalog, I can’t judge. But, beyond “The Candy Man,” it sounds like a fine, if rote album. And I kinda like the faux gospel tone of “Take My Hand.”
Go read about Sammy, since you’re already on the Interwebs. He was hella interesting. Like, did you know he was half-Cuban?

optiganally yours

Mr. Wilson,” by Optiganally Yours. OY is a quasi-band formed around the Optigan, “an early electronic keyboard instrument designed for the consumer market. It is best remembered today for its reputation of frequent failure and its kitschy appearance and sound. The name stems from the fact that the instrument relied on pre-recorded optical soundtracks to reproduce sound.” Sort of an early sampler, in other words.
Released in 1971, its prerecorded sounds are forever stuck in the Nixon administration, making it perfect for the retro enthusiast in all of us. And there’s a great ’70s-themed video:

More OY tracks available for download here and here and here.