Monday, November 09, 2009


Mental Floss had an entry that explained the background of each NBA nickname. The names and their genesis are pretty wild for some of them. On the other hand, the newest names are all the result of some stupid "name the team" contest, which generates stupid names like the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Some of the more interesting names:

The Atlanta Hawks were originally the Tri-City Blackhawks (apparently Bettendorf was still a Dorf at the time, and not yet a Stadt), named for the same Black Hawk as the Chicago Blackhawks. Although the Black Hawk War impacted Wisconsin too, when the Tri-City Blackhawks moved to Milwaukee they became the "Hawks." When they moved to St. Louis (where Black Hawk was held after his capture) they stayed the Hawks.

The Bulls allegedly were to have a name reflecting the importance of the stockyards (although the stockyards closed five years after the Bulls arrived in Chicago). The owner was thinking Matadors or Toreadors when his son allegedly told him the names were "a bunch of bull." I have my doubts.

Actually, those are about the only interesting ones.

Three stories in the last three weeks have highlighted the difficulties that can occur when countries and cultures intersect. It isn't quite the clash of civilizations, but the difficulties can be significant.

First, there is an article about the relationship between Asia's giants. China and India both have populations so large that rounding errors create or erase 100 million people. China's economy is much bigger than India's, but India is much more developed politically. As luck would have it, they also share a mountainous border that is actually Tibet's border with India that China is pretending is China's border with India. Just to add to the fun, they have lots of trade disputes, and are both nuclear powers. Interesting read.

Meanwhile, in Africa the bishops of the Catholic Church are criticizing the post-colonial governments for corruption. Particularly in Belgian Congo, French West Africa, and Portuguese Africa the governments of the metropoles, though largely Catholic, were generally hostile to Catholic missionaries. This creates an interesting dynamic in places that are culturally deeply influenced by Catholic western Europe, and in some cases largely Roman Catholic, the ethics of the Church have not penetrated the political culture at all. Of course, those are the modern ethics . . .

Finally, the Swiss are heading toward a referendum to decide whether to ban building minarets in Switzerland. The issue is largely academic, since there are only four buildings in Switzerland with minarets. There are probably more than that in Brussels. However, the sense of having Muslim immigrants "tower" over the country is apparently of real concern for at least some Swiss. Of course, the Swiss seem to have lost all sense of proportion when you realize how few Muslims live in Switzerland (300,000 in all of Switzerland, 150,000 in Detroit alone). Still, the outcome of the referendum will be interesting.