Medieval Warfare Magazine

I wanted to keep everyone posted when I came across a cool new book or magazine. Medieval Warfare is the real deal. A sister publication of Ancient Warfare, which I have also reviewed, this beautiful bimonthly covers war from the fall of Rome to the beginning of the Renaissance. That is a good millennium of battles and other stuff, which Medieval Warfare handles very well. It is a Dutch-produced – Karwansaray Publishers – but its language is English. The current issue – Vol. II, Issue 6 – is themed to the Byzantine Empire of the tenth and eleventh centuries, a golden age for Byzantium and an era of military resurgence on all fronts.

My personal favorite is Raffaele d’Amato’s look at the equipment of the kataphraktoi, the heavy armored cavalry of the Byzantine Empire. I like d’Amato’s work very much, he is a real scholar, and knows how to make good use of his sources. Medieval Warfare also contains stunning color artwork and great photographs. It is the kind of magazine that insists that you take it off the rack and look it over. Give it a look yourself. It is available at Barnes & Noble.

I also highly recommend Byzantine Imperial Guardsman 925-1025 by Raffaele d’Amato.  My review of it is in the back of this particular Medieval Warfare issue.  Check it out!

Marc DeSantis

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Freedom’s Forge Book Review

Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II

Arthur Herman

Random House

2012

413 pages

ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4

Allied victory in the Second World War owed as much to America’s productive muscle as it did to the fighting skills of its soldiers and sailors. Arthur Herman, a visiting scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, attributes America’s astonishing feats of war production to the underlying know-how and drive of American businessmen. The heroes of Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II are industrial titans such as William Knudsen, an automobile production genius, and Henry Kaiser, who built countless Liberty cargo ships quickly and cheaply in simple yards on both coasts. The villains of the book are communist union bosses, who caused needless delays by striking, and incomprehending New Dealers in the Roosevelt Administration, who were convinced that big business was fleecing the taxpaying public.

The achievement of American business was undeniable. The productive surge was underway even before Pearl Harbor, spurred on by Britain’s dire situation, and this head start helped to speed America’s military response after it officially entered the war. America produced more airplanes than Germany and Japan combined. It equipped the air forces of its allies with thousands of warplanes and their armies with thousands of tanks.

The key was the allowance for the profit motive. In order for business to function effectively, it had to be operating of its own accord, and not commanded. Typically, war contractors received their costs back for making an item, along with a small profit. The entire system of war production organized itself. There was no way that a government agency, no matter how large, could have understood, let alone arranged, the vast web of assemblers and suppliers who built America’s war machines, such as the awesomely complex B-29. The industrial renaissance engendered by the war laid the foundation for the generation of prosperity that followed.

Marc G. De Santis

Panasonic Lumix ZS19 Digital Camera Review

The Panasonic Lumix ZS19 is a fine digital camera of the point-and-shoot compact class. It is small, lightweight, and packed with features. It works well for me, but will it satisfy you? That depends on what you are looking for in a camera. A simple point-and-shoot will perform very well in most situations. My 6.0 megapixel Canon Powershot SD600, ancient now, takes fantastic photos and is solidly built. I wanted to step up to something better, while still retaining the size profile of a compact camera. It had to fit into a coat pocket, and so could not be much larger than a bar of soap. I also wanted a better zoom capability than my Canon’s 3x so that I could take acceptable pictures of subjects beyond ten feet in distance. Sometimes, when I snapped on a distant subject with the Powershot, it made everything in the photo look as if it was on the other side of the Atlantic. A DSLR would have given me great shots from a long distance, but it would have been much too large to fit into a jacket. So instead I would go with a so-called travel zoom, which is a compact camera with a telescoping lens that extends far out from the body.

My initial impressions of the ZS19 have been very favorable. Image quality on the 14.1 megapixel, 20x optical zoom ZS19 is generally fantastic, the 3.0 inch LCD is bright and sharp, and the controls are simple to use. The small Leica lens is superb. In portrait mode, bokeh is excellent. Onboard effects are plentiful, and most can be accessed via a small dial on the top of the device. I found that the zoom function was occasionally problematic. It was easy to overzoom on a subject because the control was a trifle jerky. The far older Canon’s zoom, by contrast, is silky smooth. Also, at extended ranges, a computerized “digital zoom” effect takes over on the Lumix, and the results can be either hit or miss. Panasonic promises 40x with the Intelligent Zoom function engaged, an impressive number, but don’t expect it to work out in every instance. 20x maximum is more realistic. Low light photos, as you could expect, are also spotty, sometimes okay, sometimes not. I also wish that the build quality was better. It isn’t that I expect the Lumix to break, it is not flimsy, but I just can’t help compare it to my rugged, all-metal Powershot. The ZS19 feels a bit plasticky.

At short distances, the image quality is very close what you would obtain from an entry-level DSLR, so if high quality close-up pictures, with an occasional distance photo, is what you are about, the ZS19 will be a great carry camera. If you need something more, such as if you are taking photos of the Grand Canyon, Paris in the springtime, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, or simply want the highest quality images, a DSLR will provide everything you need, but it will be a much larger machine. There is also an intermediate class of digicams known as compact system cameras, or CSCs, which do away with mirrors and produce images comparable to lower-end DSLRs, in a smaller-than-DSLR package. However, many of these devices, with all but the shortest lenses attached, are still significantly larger than a compact point-and-shoot, and cost about as much, or more, as an entry-level DSLR.

The ZS19 sells for $249.00 at Costco, so do not pay any more for it than that, period. You will also have to get a proper carry case for it. The kit case is barely adequate. Battery life is sufficient, and no more. No charging unit is supplied, so the battery will have to charged while in the camera itself. Below are a few photos that I took with the ZS19.

Check out some of the photos I took with it here in an earlier post.

Marc De Santis is the author of the fantasy novel BloodLikeWine. He blogs at ConsolidatedPopCulture about whatever he pleases.