Free men are not equal, equal men are not free.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Futurians

Daddy Warpig is posting on the scum who called themselves Futurians at Castalia house. This jumped out at me:
The Silver Age threw away heroics and heroism, the Bronze Age threw away decency and morality, the Iron Age forged tiny cages for people’s imaginations, and the Clay Age finger painted with their own poo, for there was nothing else to throw away.
Of the "big three" who'd been considered such the last few decades, I have no Clarke remaining, not even Rama, and only a couple Asimov. Lots of Heinlein juveniles though.

Why? Because while Heinlein's characters were often frighteningly competent "men with screwdrivers", they were also often big damn heroes, sometimes hucksters, taking risks, often of the life or death variety, and going into the unknown because it was there. 

It is no surprise then that at the recent Geek Gab with Jeffro, Wright, and Razorfist, (I think it was) Wright, in renaming the big three, still included Heinlein. From the writers before that, he included A.E. Van Vogt.

My only exposure to Van Vogt in decades past was the weapon shop stories of Isher, and even there, you could tell there was something special. Perhaps the most blatantly pro-gun, pro self-defense, anti-centralized power message short of some libertarian message fic, but unlike those, poetically written. They stuck with me all of these years.

Besides horrible works with a pervasive sense of wrongness like A is for Anything, this is another reason Damon Knight is owed condemnation.

Update: I've got more coming out on Asimov tomorrow.

Tradition!

I'd made clear at one point the intense dislike I've acquired for the play "Fiddler on the Roof". Mostly because it takes the trouble to show how important tradition is to Tevye and the community, yet at the end tears them all down, without really replacing them. A point can be made that many of the traditions would not survive the the journey to the new world, but that is actually irrelevant. They didn't have to be. Something that fit the same purposes could have been brought in that fit the new world about them, instead of them all being torn down while feeding us Communist propaganda. The story could have been about how they faced weddings, progroms, and everything else without just tearing down the traditions, and fooling people into accepting the changes.

It hadn't occurred to me to look at this in the light of Chesterton's fence before, though.
Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from Chesterton’s 1929 book The Thing: Why I am a Catholic, in the chapter entitled "The Drift from Domesticity": "In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."[79]
Which makes it interesting that recently, this came to my awareness at an article called "Reprint: John W. Campbell, Traditional Values" at the Jesse Lucas Saga:
Now herein lies the importance of traditions and traditional values. Like the 2,000-year-old star maps that allowed Halley to see that Arcturus and Aldebaran had moved, traditions represent postulates that have been tested-in-action over long periods of time.

They may not be completely and precisely correct - but only a fool would hold that they were valueless. They represent the results obtained by experiments performed on millions of human beings, over centuries of time.

They are, in fact, the basic data on which a sound sociology, or sound psychology, must be based; they're the experimental results that the modern "authorities" in those fields say we can't get because we can't perform experiments with human beings.

Traditions are valuable not because they're traditional, but because they're rule-of-thumb engineering results from ages of experiments performed on/by millions of human beings under widely varying conditions. [emphasis mine]

The old Roman engineers were very weak on theory; unlike the Greek theoreticians, the Romans didn't do much arguing about philosophy - they built things, and sought only to find practical working rules of how-to-do-it. They didn't understand force-vectors, Young's Modulus, or the chemistry of mortar, but they built magnificent arch bridges, and great domes that have stood for two thousand years. Some of their works are still in practical operation. They were lousy theorists - but their rule of thumb traditions of how to build a bridge that wouldn't fall down worked.

The fact that you cannot understand, or explain, something has nothing whatever to do with its validity.

It would behoove any would-be engineer stumbling across such a structure to study and appreciate it. And any would-be theoretician would be wise to understand that for his field of study, such a bridge is an Event; it's true, and he'd better try to understand why, instead of trying to explain it away as useless - old-fashioned - a mere tribal mores - things have changed.

Sure they have - but the basic laws haven't. We use steel reinforced concrete rather than mortared stone, but we also use the principle of the arch.

The importance of traditions is not that they're traditional and we ought to worship antiques - but that they are old, and have grown old in service.

They worked.

Like Roman aqueducts and bridges, they're still functioning usefully after millennia of use. They must have great basic laws underlying them or they'd have crumbled before this.
Yes, this also echoes Chesterton's fence, but the insight here is not just "why is it here", but why it's important to ask that question. because traditions come from somewhere, and that somewhere is an aggregate set of decisions that, in whatever circumstances pertained, worked, more often than not. You don't have to understand the theory of why. Suddenly, looking at this explanation of tradition I bridged not only the fence, but tied it to traditions and things outside of law.

I'd stated recently that one knows one is approaching a truth when different people, seeking the truth via different paths, all begin to lead in the same direction. In relation to Fiddler on the roof, the traditions are cleared away much in the spirit of Chesterton's reformer. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away." The writers of the play, much like many liberals I've met, don't think the traditions and values we hold have any use, they don't see, perhaps cannot see, or understand it, and so think it's just dross to be cleared away. Campbell in this case shows us why this is simply foolish blindness. This also echoes Haidt's work on moral axes, how liberals use fewer of them, and how conservatives can predict a liberal's reaction, but not vice versa.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Moar Winning

I overheard a conversation at an employee lounge where I was sitting to finish up some paperwork before setting off to my next job, related to the movie "La La Land."

The thrust was that they really, really, enjoyed the soundtrack (done by Justin Hurwitz, who also did the score for the also jazz-centered Whiplash), but at first hadn't "gotten" why so many people were so enthusiastic about the movie. Then they opined about how the music and tone were just sooo upbeat, and in these hard times, with such a bad year, with everyone so depressed and divided, they needed something to cheer them up.

Three points here. The least significant? The fact that she contradicts herself - if we're "sooo divided" and it's a bad year because of Trump/racism/sexism, etc., it stands to reason that not everyone is having a bad year, but logic is not a liberal strong suit when it comes to feelz.

Next - she lives in a bubble, and isn't even willing to peek outside of it. Like all too many liberals I've seen around my parts they have, if anything, retreated further in. "Everyone" is having a bad year? I'm sure everyone she knows is depressed, etc. about this but one doesn't have to look far to find happy Trump supporters, even with the way the #fakenews legacy media is editing the rally coverage. That, or she doesn't really consider Trump supporters people, but again, this comes down to more feelz than actual facts.

Third - they still feel like they're losing. Prager - who occasionally has useful videos on stuff but is otherwise useless and has all the spine of a soggy loaf of bread in standing up to the left - tried to tell the left that "Four Years Ago, Conservatives Were Just as Depressed"

Bullshit.

Depressed? Yes. Pissed? Yes. I think it took less than one day before I shrugged my shoulders and told myself it was time to do something useful about it. The epic meltdowns of election night (Laci Green below being one of the meaner examples, but a lot of screaming and waterworks were to be found), the ongoing depression, the doubling down.

No. We may have been depressed and pissed, but not just as depressed, and certainly not as emotionally incontinent.



That tweet clearly demonstrates how much they hate us, and condescend to us, do not consider us equals, how arrogantly assured they were, how they lived in a bubble, why they are doubling down, and why we are, at this time, likely to win in 2020.

As a total aside: I had actually somewhat liked Whiplash. Even as the music teacher was abusive in how he pushed the main character to stretch himself, it was still a film centered on excellence, that mere talent is not enough, and the lengths one must go to to master their craft.

Insofar as Oscars, the only Oscar-bait I'd seen was Hell or High Water, by the same director as Sicario. Solid film but it won't get best film because while it's "occupy wall street" with bank robbers who're also taking advantage of the oil companies, it's also about white men, and the protagonist is doing everything he can to provide for his son, come "hell or high water."

Not having seen them, I think La La Land will get best score, at least it's catchy, and Hidden Figures will get best film. All the movies at that tier are competently edited and shot, but people who see it find it uplifting and inspirational, so it managed to do the messaging well, and even if it had not, it gets to check off the boxes for "women in STEM" and "blacks overcoming systemic oppression."

My record on predicting Oscars by social justice checkboxes has been pretty good the last few years. I'd predicted Spotlight purely because I saw the self-congratulatory myth of the press as standing up to entrenched powers and its attacks on religion and the Catholic church specifically as a better fit for the mood of the time.  Not only was I told I was crazy for "why" and "no it's not an attack on the church", but the person trying to dress me down later had the honesty to admit I was right on the latter after the director got up on stage and made his speech.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why I Bother to Pay ANY Attention to the Verge

The verge. SJW central. I almost never - less than 1 in 100 times - read the articles that pop up in the feed because, for a so-called tech site, they are of course, SJW converged.  Usually, instead, the headlines, and the hysterical  (in at least two senses of the word) - first paragraph excerpt are more than enough to both assure me I'm not missing anything, and to give me a good indication of the "thought" trends in the liberal and SJW left of what we have insufficient representation of, etc.. Even the legitimate tech and science news article titles and excerpts give insight into how they feel.

Oh, and they promote a lot of shitty, pink, SF. Every bit as bad as io9.

It's an exercise in wading through the wanna-be clever, the cringingly gamma, and worse. Examples include "How to defeat Trump’s handshake: a fist bump", "Ryan Murphy says he plans to tackle the 2016 election on American Horror Story", and so forth. In a recent article titled "Edgelords aren’t the internet’s cultural leaders — snowflakes are" regarding the recent Pewdiepie contract cancellation, the usual SJW "arguments" were issued:
In a well-argued BuzzFeed essay, writer and Screener editor Jacob Clifton described PewDiePie’s actions as representative of a larger masculine identity crisis, and urged readers to engage with rather than demonize the people caught up in it. “The whiny self-importance and self-indulgence of white male rage,” writes Clifton, “is so repugnant that it’s nearly impossible to see through. But we won’t heal, and they won’t heal, if we don’t try.” There’s merit in all this. But after a point, it's tiresome to constantly hear the same revelation about how we need to understand white male rage — when it feels as though that’s all we talk about.
This recent one though, was glorious.

The 2016 election was a reality TV nightmare, so why would we want to watch it as fiction?

It was subtitled "I’m not okay, you’re not okay". The opener?
2016 was such a bad year that its terribleness became a meme unto itself. Mutating first on internet forums, the sentiment trickled into the real world through newspapers, magazines, mixtapes, merch — and from my personal experience at a fratty New Year’s Eve party I accidentally attended, a multi-thousand dollar light-up display reading “Fuck 2016.” So it’s not immediately clear why anyone thinks there’s a sizable audience clamoring to relive it.
Such wonderful butthurt. I'm not yet tired of winning.

I won't link to them, but just so you could see it in it's original "glory."




Fantastic News

John C Wright just posted:
It appears that, unbeknownst to me, SWAN KNIGHT’S SON is up for the Planetary Award. If you maintain a blog, you can vote.
I just finished Swan Knight's Son, the first of the Moth and Cobweb books, and absolutely love it. It is easily as poetic and vivid as anything of his I've read. If anything, it has the deepest contrasts without pushing to extremes. For all that I love the Metachronopolis or Night Lands stories, they are about finding light in the darkness. Sure, Metachronopolis looks prettier, but it's a thin veneer over ugly. In the Night Lands, it is even more extreme. There is a wide, sparsely populated gulf between the dark, and the point of light we cling to.

In SKS, not only do we see the extremes - and the dark can be very dark, and the love, the warmth, very bright - but a lot of the gamut in between. Every bit of it, from the conversations with animals as a-matter-of-course, to the beauty and darkness of the elf battle and the final fight to protect a kidnapped infant, evokes life, breathes poetry, and a depth of myth and vision behind it weighted with the progress of time. I especially loved the conversations with Ruff, the dog, who like most things in magic, is not all he seems either.

Do yourself a favor. If you haven't read JCW's Castalia works, go pick up Awake in the Night Land, City Beyond Time, The Iron Chamber of Memory, but first, read Swan Knight's Son. 

Oh, and go vote