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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Music: Sabaton: The Last Stand: The Last Stand

One of my favorite bands is the "power metal" band Sabaton, who theme most of their albums around war and warfare. The most recent album, The Last Stand, features desperate last stands. Some were indeed "last" - as in the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, some were "merely" desperate.

History

This song, the title track for the album, concerns itself with the last stand of the papal Swiss guard in 1527, when the Duke of Bourbon attacked Rome in search of loot to distract mutinous troops who had not been paid.
As a result of his troops' attitudes, Bourbon decided to attack Rome, known to be filled with potential loot.[2] The city, considered to be the inviolable capital of Christendom,[2] was left almost defenseless, and, when the Pope anxiously ordered the citizens to take up arms, only 500 obeyed. Bourbon's troops quickly overwhelmed the defenders and began to plunder the ancient city. Near St. Peter's Basilica, the Swiss Guard, as the Pope's elite bodyguard unit, deployed. The captain, Kaspar Röist, intended to hold off the attackers long enough for Clement to escape across the Passetto di Borgo.

Joined by remnants of the Roman garrison, the Swiss made their stand in a cemetery well within the Vatican. Captain Röist was wounded and then killed by Spanish mercenaries, in full view of his wife.[3] The Swiss fought bitterly, but were heavily outnumbered and almost annihilated. Some survivors, accompanied by a band of refugees, retreated to the Basilica steps. Those who fled toward the Basilica were massacred, and just above forty survived. This group of forty, under the command of Hercules Goldli, managed to stave off the Habsburg troops pursuing the Pope's entourage as it made its way across the Passetto to the Castel Sant'Angelo.[3]

 The Song

The song itself slows down again from the headlong rush of "Rorke's Drift" to a steady, driving, powerful march, with the song introduced by ringing bells.

Leaving aside how rare it is in popular culture to praise or glorify men standing up and fighting - something metal hardly lacks in (see, for example, Five Finger Death Punch), and something that Sabaton explicitly has made a career of with their war and hero themed music - it is fairly rare in metal, given the number of northern European bands, to be positive towards Christianity. This song is an utterly unironic anthem to men who stood their ground in the name of God. 

In the heart of holy see
In the home of Christianity
The seat of power is in danger

There's a foe of a thousand swords
They've been abandoned by their lords
Their fall from grace will pave their path, to damnation

Then the 189
In the service of heaven
They're protecting the holy line
It was 1527
Gave their lives on the steps to heaven
Thy will be done!

For the grace, for the might of our lord
For the home of the holy
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Gave their lives so boldly

For the grace, for the might of our lord
In the name of his glory
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Come and tell their story again

Under guard of 42
Along a secret avenue
Castle saint Angelo is waiting

They're the guard of the holy see
They're the guards of Christianity
Their path to history is paved with salvation

Then the 189
In the service of heaven
They're protecting the holy line
It was 1527
Gave their lives on the steps to heaven
Thy will be done!

For the grace, for the might of our lord
For the home of the holy
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Gave their lives so boldly

For the grace, for the might of our lord
In the name of his glory
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Come and tell their story again

Dying for salvation with dedication
No capitulation, annihilation
Papal commendation, reincarnation
Heaven is your destination

Dying for salvation with dedication
No capitulation, annihilation
Papal commendation, reincarnation
Heaven is your destination

In the name of god

For the grace, for the might of our lord
For the home of the holy
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Gave their lives so boldly

For the grace, for the might of our lord
In the name of his glory
For the faith, for the way of the sword
Come and tell their story
Gave their lives so boldly
Come and tell the Swiss Guards' story again



Also, I had been told that for "The Lost Battalion", the drum sounds were actually created from sampled gunfire. Here's the interview I since found discussing that:


Monday, February 27, 2017

And Despite the Oscars Going to the Most SJW-friendly Topic it Could Find...

SJW's of course still find something to bitch about because they are never satisfied (I know it's the archive link, but it's the Verge. Waiver all claims to retaining sanity before reading their articles in full...).
This year at the Oscars, much like every year at the Oscars, men were honored for the movies they made.

Outside of the women-only acting categories, almost no women were nominated for anything, and almost no women won. Casey Affleck won. Mel Gibson was not only there, but in the third row and often on camera. No one seemed to care, and the entire four-hour ceremony passed without any indication that the women in attendance, or at home, should have anything to be upset about.

A man won Best Director in a field of all male nominees. A man also won Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Animated Feature, and of course Best Cinematography, which has not been won by a woman even one time in 89 years, because no woman has ever been nominated.
Remember when I said that Manchester could never win best film because white male being masculine? Well...
Casey Affleck, who settled two sexual harassment lawsuits out of court in 2010, also won his first Oscar for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, a film that asked him to really stretch his range by pretending to be sad and have a Boston accent. Fittingly, the harassment lawsuits were filed by two women who were working on a film with him — I’m Still Here producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka.
Well, I have more interesting things to worry about, even within the context of popping popcorn over SJW shitshows, so that will likely be it.

I Was Wrong About the Oscars

Turns out that not only did I peg the Oscar wrong, but it's a movie I'd heard almost nothing about in either promotion or discussions: Moonlight. Turns out the whole LGBTBBQ thing was a bigger deal this year than women in STEM, as both dealt with "the struggles of black people" - though arguably Hidden Figures dealt more with overcoming systemic racism.

At least I was not so far off as to have Hell or High Water, Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester By The Sea, Arrival, or La La Land win.

First of all, they were all white.

Hell or High Water, despite the OWS - style core theme, was also about a white man doing whatever it took to take care of his kids. No way in hell that would win.

If you squint I'm sure a liberal could find anti-war, pro-pacifist themes in Hacksaw, but it's still about a white guy being a hero. And, well, Mel Gibson is involved.

Manchester? White guy stepping up to be a dad.

Arrival had woman scientist saving the world but compared to black women saving the space program and overcoming racism?

La La Land was a bunch of congratulatory Hollywood myth backpatting, but despite good music and being popular wasn't going to win out against the struggle of African-Americans or LGBBQ types.

I plan on seeing Hacksaw at some point, Hell or High Water was pretty good, could care less for the rest.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

In Search of Truth



I said in a recent posting: "I care more about arriving at the truth than already having it when I started a conversation." My blog header also states: "This blog is a redoubt in search of truth in a world darkened by lies," and I have argued that when we want to throttle petty, tyrant bureaucrats that it is not just simple honesty we crave, but that "We want honest answers because we're given bullshit, obfuscation, and lies."

Vox of course recently posted on having an affinity for those in search of truth.
The individuals I appreciate most are those who seek after the truth, even when they find it uncomfortable or personally distasteful. I am far more comfortable with the seekers than with those who are convinced that they have arrived at the final one true understanding of God, Man, the universe, and everything, whether it is the Catholic Church, the Bible, or Science that provides them with the basis for their baseless confidence.
Note the difference - between those who think they know the truth and are not willing to change when experience and the world show them otherwise, and those who constantly seek it, willing to discard what they knew, if sometimes slowly and painfully, when they realize they are wrong.

In my own life, despite an upbringing that included a lot of truth about communism, I rejected the self-assurance of the explicitly religious, and wandered through liberal circles for a while. It took a few years but not only did I realize that, despite their pretensions, that they had no monopoly on truth, but that they were, ultimately, not interested in truth.

It was that desire to learn, possess, and be in alignment in truth that led me back out of that den of snakes, and also the greatest single factor in most of my changes in attitude and belief.

Vox says to look at not only where a person is, but where they are, and what that says about where they will be.

Scott Adams talks about not having so much goals as systems that will lead to improvement and good outcomes. Good habits, if you will. 

Being dedicated to truth is a system that cuts down on false rationalizations, self-delusion, and lying to oneself and others.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Take the Star Road (The Maxwell Saga) book 1

While I've long seen him around the Mad Genius Club environs and have enjoyed the posts at his own site, I had not read anything of Peter Grant's until the western Brings the Lightning, and Take the Star Road is, after all this time, only the second book of his I've read.

Steve Maxwell is an orphan, born on a deeply socialist earth that is in danger, due to most of the smarter and more driven (K-selected?) people leaving for other colonies, of becoming a backwater. Despite the reverence still held for "Old Home Earth" - the signs are there. Fortunately his parents ensured a modicum of good schooling in their affairs, and Steve is a driven man who wants off his homeworld, to make his way among the stars.

As the book opens, Steve is closing out a night washing dishes and closing up an orbital, cargo terminal bar as a part time worker. Leaving, he and the owner are attacked, and Steve helps fight them off, saving the owners life, to discover they are members of a local Tong, the Lotus Tong. Out of gratitude, the owner first takes him on full time, then arranges to get him an apprentice slot with a merchant spacer he trusts. And so Steve's journey begins.

The characters are amazing, and, when one dies later in the book, it has a huge emotional impact. The story - a youth-coming-of-age story - is tight and well told. The action, when it comes, is brutal but not glorified to the point of violence porn, understandable given Mr Grant's background as a veteran and a preacher.

The weakest point is the dialog. I both read and listened, in turns, having purchased both the Kindle and Audible versions. The narrator was excellent, but the "golly" and "gee" routine was a bit jarring for me as a son of a Marine and veteran sailor, given the universe of the book, but understandable with the target audience and Mr. Grant's sensibilities. The biggest issue, again, more noticeable when narrated as you have more time to take in the words and stilted sentences stand out more, was the over-explanatory and stilted nature of the dialog.

The world Maxwell inhabits includes jump drives, reactionless drives, antigrav and artificial gravity, and tractor beams, whereas projectile weapons are the shipboard weapons of the day, and missiles the weapons of choice for pirates and major naval ships. The attention to detail, and "how things work" shows. Despite the stilted nature of the dialog, it does explain why things work, numerous aspects of ship design and operational procedures, all of it to a level of detail comparable to the pages spent in Have Space Suit Will Travel detailing the design and operation of vacuum suits. Also, the reasons make sense, and matter in either how the story unfolds or how characters behave, and why.

It can be a bit unsettling to read an author in reverse order, even if the two books have nothing to do with each other, when they display such a large progression in skill and craft. Nevertheless, despite the dialog issues I had, I quickly finished this book, taking full advantage of "whispersync" to either listen to it via audio or to read it on a Kindle, getting through it as fast as I could. The story and characters are memorable in their own right, the story engaging, and despite the clunky dialog you can see the gold of his later works already shining through, ready to be revealed in greater clarity and polish.

I highly recommend it, and will gladly continue the series. It also shows that his western was not a fluke.

Girl Friday

It's Friday again.




I Know What I Know

I know what I know
I'll sing what I said
We come and we go
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
   -Paul Simon, "I Know What I Know", Graceland

I was digging around some odds and ends over at the Didacts site, chasing rabbits down holes, and "INTJ" caught my eye. He has posted several times on introverts, and, I am one, so seeing a site in the sidebar about INTJ's didn't surprise me. The site wasn't bad - think of it as more of a very personal set of insights rather than a general overview - but still a lot of good introspection and self-analysis. One article headline jumped out. "INTJ – I Know What I Know & What I Don’t Know". A couple excerpts are relevant. First:
...if we know something or don’t know something then we will just tell you.
Thinking back, even when I was more insecurely wrapped in being the smart kid who "knew everything" - I wasn't sorely tempted to claim knowledge of something I did not know. If anything, I found it difficult to bullshit together a response to "short essay" questions to which I did not know the answer clearly. I was perfectly willing to say "I don't know." Yes, in my youth, when I was more wrapped up in "I'm awesome because I'm smart" it hurt to have to admit it, but these days, after years of meeting far too many people who were experts at things I would never have time to study, I don't care. I've even had bystanders laugh at the look of puzzlement on my face when accused of "you can't admit you don't know something."

 Of course:
HOWEVER, the thing is though, we, as INTJs, when interested in something, we research the hell out of that topic – 
The key phrase here is actually not "research the hell out of the topic", but "when interested in something." If not interested, I may learn something anyway because I'm "interested" - the teacher was badgering me, it is a tedious detail I need to know it for work even if I don't want to otherwise.

This doesn't just extend to what I learn, but also to why I rarely tell people I don't know. If I'm not interested, I rarely talk about it, if I am interested, anyone short of a professional with experience in the field or a dedicated and experienced hobbyist is unlikely to be better informed. Yes, I've been known to be wrong on my supposed level of knowledge. When shown wrong, I stand corrected and update "what I know."

I care more about arriving at the truth than already having it when I started a conversation.
Furthermore, we instantly say, “I know”, because we have already jumped to the conclusion whereby your conversation was built upon. We already got your point, so when people vomits excessive information before getting to the “moral of the story”, we already look like a stubborn idiot whereby we either have a certain irritated expression of exasperation on our face or our hands are motioning for that person to hurry up (personally, I use the phrase “fast forward”, a lot).
I'm very guilty of this kind of thing. Someone starts making a statement. They're either repeating themselves after I've acknowledged them, or I'm damn aware of whatever issue they think they're bringing to my attention, and say "I know" as a shorthand for "and I know what I'm doing/you already informed me, please shut up and stop wasting my time."

Worse - "we already got to your point," I'm extremely guilty of cutting people off when something they say shows their fundamental principles and assumptions are off so I don't want to hear anything else, or I recognize a talking point/train of logic that inevitably goes somewhere, even if they hadn't specifically said it before. My success rate isn't perfect - about one in ten times it turns out that I hadn't anticipated what was to be said correctly, and yes, I've been known to admit that.

I try to work on listening more.
On the other hand, as for when we do not know some things, we will either tell you or just stay quiet – some topics do not pique our interest nor do we feel that we are comfortable enough to have an opinion on it. We sometimes do not feel ‘qualified’ to speak about the topic at hand – yes, we are VERY aware of what we do not know and we acknowledge this. The problem is whether the topic makes us interested enough to commence a research afterwards.
Like I said - if I  don't know, I may be interested enough in the people to pay attention, but, I need to be interested in learning more in order to speak up for more than polite "uh huh" noises. Even if I am interested, I often wait to see where it goes instead of hijacking the conversation.  
The annoying thing about being certain about our knowledge is that, we are seen as not open-minded – this is such a misconstrued assumption. Open minded people acknowledge their faults and questions everything and themselves. Even if we know what we know, that does not mean that we do not plan on expanding our knowledge; it just so happens that the topic may not have piqued our interest yet and so it is not our priorities at the moment.
This goes back to accusations that - because I argue what I believe is true, that I'm close-minded and "have to be right." While some of the things I believed were wrong, I also constantly reality-check, and have changed my mind on a number of things. That said - I doubt anyone is going to convince me that socialism and communism are good, even if I have long had issues with big "L" libertarians that led me into the alt-west wing of the alt-right.

Of course, there are also "unknown unknowns", which, like the universe, are limitless. 


Cruxshadows: Return (Coming Home) (Assemblage 23 Remix)

Having been introduced to the Darkwave/Goth band the Crüxshadows courtesy of John Ringo's books, it was now off to the races to find more of their stuff, and so I stumbled, not into Ethernaut, from which "Winterborn" and "Citadel" were pulled, but one of their remix albums Frozen Embers.

There are a few interesting retakes here, but my favorite in many ways is the only remix I like of Return - the Assemblage 23 remix. Since Ethernaut went with a Trojan War theme, and given their penchant to refer to myth and religion, I'm fairly sure the song refers to, or was inspired by, Odysseus.



Return (Coming Home)

I've seen the terrible hand of struggle
and felt the pain the hubris brings
I have tasted the wisdom of divinity
and the horror of its sting

And though they tell you i am lost
and their words report my death is come

the fates have left me breathing still
very much alive

And though my mind is cut by battles
fought so long ago
I return victorious
I am coming home
And if the paths that I have followed
have tread against the flow

there is no need for sorrow
I am coming home

For the distance I have traveled
upon an ocean of despair
have led me back into your arms once more
an answer to a little prayer

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Musical Interlude: Songs From the Cool World

I don't know what it was about the 90's, but I can think offhand of several movies that tried to be edgy and hip that had far better soundtracks than they deserved (and the movies sucked). Most notable to me were Hackers (for having Angelina Jolie), Mortal Kombat, and Cool World. In the former case I still regularly cue up "Connected" by Stereo MC's, and "Voodoo People" by the Prodigy (incidentally, 2 Cellos has an interesting cover). Mortal Kombat wasn't as bad a movie as panned, but had an outstanding soundtrack that was damn near a Wax Trax showcase and has my absolute favorite mix of "Juke Joint Jezebel" by KMFDM.

In the latter - it's an interesting snapshot of the state of industrial and techno.

The opener is the fairly chill "Real Cool World", with David Bowie doing what he does best - skillfully invading yet another genre and putting his own stamp on it. It's danceable and laid back. It may not stand out for the ages, but it certainly aged well.

Next, "Play With Me." If you only remember them for songs like "Hold Me Now", this piece has a far more driving beat while still incorporating a fairly dreamy soundscape. It's a full on dance/club track and not a pop song.

"Disappointed," by Electronic comes across as yet another Pet Shop Boys song due to some very familiar voices.

"Papua New Guinea" is not a dance piece at all but an atmospheric, dreamy piece of electronica.

Then comes the change in tone. "N.W.O" by Ministry, which also appeared on Psalm 69 the same year. Full blown industrial, Ministry guitar and noises that will make any fan of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (my favorite) or The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste happy.

"The Witch" by the Cult is more a groovy piece than flat out high-energy rock in the vein of "Fire Woman."

Up to this point "N.W.O." was the first truly driven piece as the rest fit the moniker "Cool" in being laid back. The next is my favorite track on the album, "Sex on Wheelz" by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult - the band most easily described to most outside of the industrial scene as "that one playing in the Crow when he tore up a room full of gunmen". I love the baseline to this song.

"Ah-Ah" and "Next is the E" by Moby are far more in line with his earlier music, and other popular dance tracks of the era like "Cubik" by 808 state, than his later and far more popular Play and 18. Very heavy, very electronic, very driven beat.

Sandwiched between them is the very low-key electronic dance piece "Mindless"

Next, "Do That Thang", trying to be the anthemic club track. Not bad, but not a band I ever heard of at the local Orlando clubs circa 1992 unlike Ministry, Thrill Kill Cult, NIN, LL Cool J, Dee-Lite, or the DiVynils, and of course Depeche Mode.

"Her Sassy Kiss" shows some of the range of the Thrill Kill Cult, and good, but not my favorite track, if more on the "cool" side of the album.

"Greedy" by Pure is, along with N.W.O. is not a dance (you don't dance to Ministry, you mosh) piece. Guitar-based and very atmospheric.

"Under" by Brian Eno is also an atmospheric, haunting, non-dance piece that hearkens more back to a new-wave sensibility.

Finally, "Industry and Seduction".  Also electronic, and also played for atmosphere than dancing, but more in the sound sample vein than new wave.

All in all the album lives up to "Cool" in tone more than the Moby and Ministry tracks, or "Sex on Wheelz", even on the majority of danceable music. It's a decent snapshot of the state of electronica and industrial at the time, with the former in transition.






Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Better "Stranger" Thing

While Stranger Things has accumulated accolades, and I sortof enjoyed it, it was mostly because it didn't completely suck or immerse itself in liberal preachiness.

So if you want something even Stranger, and laugh-out-loud funny, maybe check out this freewheeling story of an inter-dimensional insurance agent, by Larry Correia. As the article at Superversive points out:
Chapter 2: “The Mediation”

The mediator is Chuck Norris. The awesome is hilarious, as is Baldwin’s impersonation of Norris. Just bask in the awesome.

Chapter 3: “Hell Comes to Nebraska”

This might be the best bit of the book. Not only because it blows up an SF convention, but because it stars Larry Correia and Wendell the Manatee as CFO of CorreiaTech, creator of the Combat Wombat. There are also legions of Hell invading Nebraska.

Then there’s the Balrog…

Yes.
This is Larry Correia of the blog fisks, of "What About the Moon Ferrets." Adam Baldwin is President (in our first dimension we visit), Lee Ermey is SecDef (ditto), call centers from hell, and liberal tropes - and a few geek ones - are not only roasted but nuked to the tune of millions of Bear Grylls* of damage.

Go and listen to the adventures of Tom Stranger, of Stranger and Stranger, as he endeavors to provide constantly excellent customer service.

* The amount of lethality required to kill one Bear Grylls. A metric that is amazingly consistent throughout the multiverse.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Asimov and the Tyranny of the Smart Kids


Several posts recently, at Castalia and elsewhere, have dug into why Isaac Asimov is a petty, poisonous, jealous, snake. A lot of it centers around a quote in the forward to the third book in a fantasy series that his name plastered on the front. Once you start digging, the jealousy and hatred are pretty obvious, as well as the utter irrationality at work.

For those, go read the original Castalia article on Cosmic Knights - where it's almost like he's trying to keep people from buying the book with his name on it - and the excellent analysis at Seagull Rising.
And that, my friends, is the critical point that Asimov misses.  He can't see past his own ego.  He thinks that readers burn for vengeance on the grade school bully, and that what readers really want is a smart hero who uses complicated plans built on layers of deceit and obfuscation to thwart the plans of simpler and more forthright villains.

Normal people don't think that way.  Normal people just want to grab the lady behind the counter at the DMV who smugly announces that they don't have the right safety check form and that they'll have to take the Form 88A-Pre-Owned back to the car dealership and get the Form 88A-Used and shake that helmet haired old prune until their registration falls out.  They want to grab their kid's vice-principal and explain to him WITH THEIR FISTS that biting a Pop-Tart into a pistol shape in no way violates a Zero Tolerance policy.  They want simple and honest solutions to the complex and inscrutable rules and regulations of modern life.

...

But a guy like Asimov - so desperate to be the smartest man in the room - has to announce that the vague longing people have for simplicity and virtue is actually a very bad thing, and if you'll just hear him out, he can explain why honesty is stupid.  That Asimov sees himself as allied with the schemers and deceivers tells you everything you need to know about him.  How much trust to put into the words of a man who sympathizes with the liars and connivers is up to you.

A falsehood to the point of lying is the end result of the absence of these facts. The fact that the title was intrinsically intertwined with European Christianity is probably the reason for Asimov’s hostility. Isaac Asimov should not have been associated with a fantasy anthology series. I have never been in awe of Asimov finding his fiction to be boring in the extreme. This is the guy who invented the galactic empire and managed to make it boring.
I will add one point - it's not just that we long for a simple answer, it's that we are often constrained from simple truth by petty tyrants and liars. Though bureaucracy may come with civilization, and some degree of it is a necessary evil, it is, in fact, an evil. The stupid principal who suspended a kid for chewing a pop tart into a gun-like shape? They didn't act alone, but bullied a kid and his parents in the full certitude that they were right, and no-one in the damn school looked at them and said "that's nuts."

When it comes to forms at the DMV, most of those rules are in place because someone did something stupid, and instead of giving the DMV initiative and guidance to handle the problems itself, decided to sluff it off on the people with more regulations, more forms, more documentation. I will say that the DMV where I live, compared to others I've seen, and especially where I grew up, actually has a fairly readable site that reasonably clearly lays out the requirements (compared to when I was looking up emissions and inspections requirements for CA), and has someone at the front door checking to make sure you have everything so you don't wait an hour to find out you're missing paperwork.

We want honest answers because we're given bullshit, obfuscation, and lies.

That said, the post at seagull rising covers those better than I want to here, go read it.

Let's get to the "desperate to be the smartest man in the room". If his own quote - misguided as it was - didn't convince you, let's look at his stories. I understand that the "Silver Age" (nomenclature courtesy of Daddy Warpig) Campbellian era fiction often had overarching, and when you look under the covers, totalitarian governments that pushed entire planetary populations around "for their own good," but Asimov took this to an extreme.

Let's look at one of his short stories featured in the anthology Nine Tomorrows, called Profession. This is a story that struck me as wrong even as a child, though I had not yet enough experience to understand why. In the future, everyone is tested for their suitability for a profession, and then taught from tapes. Our protagonist isn't chosen for a profession - and instead has to learn by reading, experimenting, and thus has no profession, and thus, no status. Or so he thinks. He eventually figures out the weakness of the tape systems - people taught by them have a very difficult time learning new things, adjusting to advancing or updated technology.

But, you see, it turns out the ones taught by rote, not to think, are the failures, and the "creative" ones, the one in ten thousand, are the successes.
"And those who don't? The ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine that don't? We can't have all those people considering themselves failures. They aim at the professions and one way or another they all make it. Everyone cane place after his or her name: Registered something-or-other. In one fashion or another every individual has his or her place in society and this is necessary.
For a story that earlier pointed out that laborers are needed and have specialized skill sets, this is condescending as hell. We really want the world run by the few, creative elites, but must fool the entire population that isn't into believing they're something special. The speaker goes on to explain why they must also fool the "creative" types at first.

And this is not an exception. A later story in the same anthology, All the Troubles of the World, the economy, everything, is run by a computer called Multivac, with a Central Board of Corrections to do its bidding and fix problems. It's not the only story of his with a massive computer running everything.

Let's turn to Foundation. As was quoted above - he managed to make intergalactic empire boring. But the premise goes along with "things should be run by us smart people". The entire point of the book is that there is a foundation, off in the odd corner. It starts - who could've guessed - as a subterfuge, an "encyclopedia" to preserve knowledge, but is secretly monitoring things to confirm that they go along with the expectations and long term predictions of Hari Seldon, and to become the core of a new empire.

From infogalactic:
Once on Terminus, the inhabitants find themselves at a loss. With four powerful planets surrounding their own, the Encyclopedists have no defenses but their own intelligence. The Mayor of Terminus City, Salvor Hardin, proposes to play the planets against each other. His plan is a success; the Foundation remains untouched, and he is promoted to Mayor of Terminus (the planet). Meanwhile, the minds of the Foundation continue to develop newer and greater technologies which are smaller and more powerful than the Empire's equivalents. Using its scientific advantage, Terminus develops trade routes with nearby planets, eventually taking them over when its technology becomes a much-needed commodity.
They also, as things happen that cannot be predicted, and are resolved, figure out there must be a second Foundation, running even further undercover, managing things to keep them on track, and to "correct" the unexpected.
As the Mule comes closer to finding it, the mysterious Second Foundation comes briefly out of hiding to face the threat directly. It is revealed to be a collection of the most intelligent humans in the galaxy, the descendants of Seldon's psychohistorians. While the first Foundation has developed the physical sciences, the Second Foundation has been developing the mental sciences. Using the might of its strongest minds, the Second Foundation ultimately wears down the Mule. His destructive attitude is adjusted to a benevolent one. He returns to rule over his kingdom peacefully for the rest of his life, without any further thought of conquering the Second Foundation.

The first Foundation, learning of the implications of the Second, who will be the true inheritor of Seldon's promised future Empire, greatly resents it—and seeks to find and destroy it, believing it can manage without it. After many attempts to unravel the only clue Seldon had given as to the Second Foundation's whereabouts ("at Star's End"), the Foundation is led to believe the Second Foundation is located on Terminus. By developing a technology which causes great pain to telepaths, the Foundation uncover a group of 50 of them, and destroys them, believing it has thereby won. However, the Second Foundation has planned for this eventuality, and has sent 50 of its members to their deaths as martyrs to preserve its anonymity.
Note the emphasized lines. The real secret kings masters are the smartest. They make their enemy think the "right" way. They are willing to throw away lives as pawns.  And yes, I'm aware of the issues related to hacking enigma, the lives that couldn't be saved to preserve the secret of the code being broken. By itself it would be one issue, but it's part of a pattern of the smartest telling everyone else what to do or else.

These themes come up in later books:
Olivaw explains that he has been guiding human history for thousands of years, and this is the reason the Seldon plan had remained on course, despite the interventions by the Mule. Olivaw also states he is at the end of his run-time and, despite replacement parts and more advanced brains (which contain 20,000 years of memories), he is going to die shortly. He explains that no robotic brain can be developed to replace his current one, and to continue assisting with the benefit of humanity—which may come under attack by beings from beyond our Galaxy—he must meld his mind with an organic intellect.
Yes, that's Olivaw from Caves of Steel. At this point Asimov has bridged in his robot stories, and had the robots decide, for humanity's own good, to manage them.

And to him it's a good thing..

At this point I really wonder if The Martian Way was actually his, given how it completely refutes so many of his common themes. Men of action getting ice to replenish Mars and break them free from Earth's central control?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fuck That Noise

I commented on "Selective Memory" over at Wasteland and Sky, and decided to repost it here. First, an excerpt:
Then I got to college and read a pile of the most hateful stories you could ever thumb through. Two in particular made me give up entirely. They were called Generals Die in Bed and Catcher in the Rye, and they were considered classics. If you've ever read them you have my condolences. 
Suffice to say, I was done. This was the best of the best? This was all the literary world had to offer? I went back to my comics and manga, and largely left reading books behind. I didn't know any readers. I didn't know any writers. I didn't know anybody who really cared about stories at all. So as far as I could tell, this was how it always was and always would be.
My bedroom in first grade also doubled as the book room with one wall occupied en toto by shelves, and my dads desk. I was reading Narnia before first grade, and Red Planet before second. I vaguely remember some Disney picture books about the world that included shots of models from the world of tomorrow style future habitats and cars in kindergarten.

So, I grew up with my parents bookshelf, ending up reading everything from Bircher - style conspiracy theories - which I later discovered had more truth than I dismissed at the time or my time wandering through liberal circles, to the SF classics, even some truly golden age stuff, my dads westerns and L'Amour books, even Taylor fucking Caldwell (can you say voracious reader?). The library delivered even more- Tom Swift, the Oz books, all the Farley "Stallion" books, "aA Connecticut Yankee", etc.....

I'd finished 1984 and Animal Farm in middle school. And Heinlein's "Friday" (I loved the cover.... go figure, teenage boy). Plus Pournelle, etc. - aside - the "there will be war" stories, Pournelle's Falkenberg/codominium books, and his collabs with Niven (Oath of Fealty, Mote in Gods Eye especially) are fucking awesome.

I'd already run into a few books that made me feel dirty  - the Long Walk by "Bachman" (aka King) - and some stuff that was clunky but, hey, voracious reader, I finished it. But it wasn't until that stupid fucking lottery story in high school, or the Lord of the Flies, or the Catcher in the Rye, that I found a book so disgusting I could not finish it.

This coming from someone who managed to wade through and enjoy drek like Battlefield Earth twice in high school, though couldn't stomach his other crap, or dianetics.

I've heard it only half-jokingly said that English teachers try to beat a love of history and reading out of us. Given what even the apparently well meaning hand to us as examples of "meaning" and literature?

Fuck that.

I can't remember most of what I read in the 90's - Wheel of time bored me to tears (couldn't finish it even underway on a sub), Goodkind also wore on with the blatant messaging, but I do remember stumbling into John Ringo, and Baen books. And then Castalia.  Outside of a couple standouts like Card, until later discovering Baen, John Wright after he signed on with Castalia, and the puppy crew, I don't recall any of it. It's all gray fucking goo.

Thank God for Baen, Thank God for Larry, Thank God for the Puppies, and Thank god for indy and Castalia.

And thank you too Jeffro, for showing me how much more of Appendix N I had yet to read.


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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Girl Friday

Weather's starting to warm up a bit in some places. Have a good weekend.









Thursday, February 16, 2017

Citizens Will Travel

There are a few of Heinlein's later, post Starship Troopers works that I still sortof like. To a lesser extent these include Friday for the Whelan cover (and an OK story), and Number of the Beast convincing me to give John Carter and the Lensmen a try. Outside of that, the only two post-Troopers works worthy of shelf space are Orphans of the Sky - technically written earlier and "fixed up" - and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

The last is one of my favorite Heinlein books, but it is the rare post-juvenile book that is so lofty. In general, his juveniles, and other earlier work like Double Star are much better written. They also include my two favorite works of his, Have Space Suit Will Travel, and Citizen of the Galaxy.

So it was a pleasure to see todays Castalia House post on Have Space Suit Will Travel.
A few quick thoughts on the book as a whole:  This is hard science fiction at its best.  Not just the scenes of Kip working on the space suit.  That comes in handy in two killer action scenes, in both of which his survival depends on the integrity of his suit.  They work because Heinlein has established that he is deadly serious about the suit.  The science works on behalf of the fiction.  There is a shift in tone later on that is jarring, but in service of Heinlein trying to do something else entirely (I really wasn’t expecting him to go all Dark Forest there).  The more political views of Heinlein’s mid-stage career are mostly absent, although one alien does describe democracy as “a very good system, for beginners.”  The views that tend to shine through are less concerned with macro-systems than the social orders of little platoons.
Having lost track of the number of times I've read the book, I completely concur with the full writeup. I'll add something else. The aliens are... alien. And unsettling, though not quite so much as the "are they intelligent or not" parasites of the Puppet Masters. Not only is the far away alien base on Pluto is laid out in a way consistent with engineering and the psychology of the aliens as revealed to us, it is used to tell us more about the character of the "wormfaces."

Also - Kip is determined, in a way that we rarely see any more. His "I did it because I wanted to" attitude evokes more of the pulp origins of Conan than the  painful setup required these days to get a character to finally act - how far into Rogue One did we get before Jyn Erso finally decides she's going to protag? Also, the time taken to show him repairing the space suit doesn't just make the critical scenes where he relies on them on Pluto and on the moon believable, as a project he did seriously and competently, but the persistence shown that early in the story makes the lengths he drove himself to in those endeavors, as well as at the end, utterly believable of his character as well.

That determination is shared in Thorby, the slave boy who we meet at the beginning of the Kim-like Citizen of the Galaxy. This time though, his determination is focused on only one thing - survival - and he gets by on animal cunning.

But not for long. It wouldn't be a Heinlein novel if our heroes didn't learn what civilization was for. Baslim, a crippled beggar, buys him, and takes him in, and it is soon apparent that Baslim is far more than he appears - and while teaching Thorby history and math, also teaches him to observe, and act. 

Upon Baslim's death, Thorby follows plans put in place by his master-turned-father-figure, and escapes. On his travels, he discovers the good and bad of the trader culture, learns to run fire control solutions and kills a pirate, joins the Navy, and eventually is repatriated to his ancestral home, on earth, as it was discovered he is the heir to a massive interstellar business. But life here is hardly idyllic, despite the machinations to make it seem that way, and Thorby discovers exactly how vicious and deadly even those who only wield a pen can be. 

At each step, his ability to learn, to observe and absorb, and act on that knowledge, are absolutely critical in gaining the skills and allies needed to succeed. His determination, needed to do the hard work to not only fit in, but master his new environments. And each is different: a corrupt slave culture, business and family-minded traders, a military heirarchy, and finally the business world.

A final theme throughout the story is responsibility. Thorby stays true to his promises, as do others about him, to their promises and oaths. 

In the end, the aliens here, are us. The evil people, are us - and so are the good people. Between the settings, the travels, and the lessons on life and people, this remains one of my favorite Heinlein books. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Power of Taking Responsibility

Among the many things discussed in the recent, fantastic video on the Architecture of Belief I mentioned yesterday with Stefan Molyneux and the psychologist Jordan Peterson, were issues of mindset, finding purpose, and the power of taking responsibility.

Now, I'd listened to Colin Flaherty's podcast "White Girl Bleed a Lot" for quite some time and highly recommend it, though I've cut down a lot. No, not because it's false - he bangs the drum ceaselessly over things people need to hear - it's just that, barring major newsworthy events, the story is, names and specific details varying, basically, depressingly, the same. Nevertheless, one of his regular guests worked as a prison psychologist, and he would make exactly that point as well. Taking responsibility for your choices and consequences is not only something those in prison avoid like the plague, but it is one of the most freeing things you can do. That the one's he has seen a change for the better in, it has been because they accepted responsibility.

So my ears perked up when the subject came up, and Stefan pointed out that "once you accept that something, your situation, is your fault, you now have the ability to do something about it."

On the same topic, Jordan discusses an experiment that he would do with his students, challenging them to take some time each day, and to look around. To find one thing that was not the way that they liked, that they could change for the better. The degree to which this small thing changed the students conception of themselves and their contentment with their own lives was phenomenal, and I can attest to the truth of this as well in my own.

I've mentioned before, a dirty secret of this blog is that I am really doing it to spend time every day, working on something, to develop a habit, what Scott Adams would refer to as a system, that I can point to every day and say "I successfully did this." Crossing over into what Peterson discusses though, the project I chose was one of trying to write things that may help, inform, or entertain people, and not simply to better inform myself or organize my thoughts and beliefs as I commit them to screen. Doing that one, achievable thing, every day, to help fix the problems that I see.

And once you make a habit of one such thing, you can then add the next, small, achievable step, of gradual, kaizen improvement, until one day, you look back, and realize that what you are now and what you believe is very different from what you were.

One other note - a reason I'm in the alt-right is because I have watched people who seek the truth from different walks of life, different conceptual frames, come to similar conclusions. Yes, there are disagreements, but when people as varied as Flaherty, Stefan, Vox, Hoyt, and Eric Raymond, despite their disagreements, also begin to fundamentally agree on a number of things despite the paths taken to get there, and having changed their minds when confronted with reality and evidence, I take notice.

So too here. Taking responsibility, habits and systems, mindset - I've seen these in places and approaches as varied as Molyneux, Flaherty, Cernovich, and Adams, and they all begin to overlap, fit in with each other like puzzle pieces.

That is one way to recognize we are likely approaching a truth.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stefan and Jordan Peterson

I've made no secret that I'm a huge fan of Stefan Molyneux and his philosophy podcasts / videocasts. The various "truth about" series have been thoroughly documented, especially the ones about Trump, and his interviews have been fantastic. An athiest, he has nevertheless, as Vox Day put it, given some of the best Christian sermons one can hear.

This is a long conversation - and well worth every single minute. It delves into myth, mindset, self talk, the need for the ineffable and the subjective, and that's just getting started.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Heresy

The Didact takes a look at one of the heresies that nearly tore apart the church and western civilization. One that bears more than a few similarities to today.

It came to a very sobering end:
The Cathar Heresy ended with the massacre of thousands of followers of their pseudo-religion and the burning alive of over 200 Cathar prefects. It resulted in the establishment of the Inquisition, a deeply maligned and thoroughly misunderstood organisation that nonetheless has gone down in history as one of the most infamous and feared defenders of the Faith ever seen.


How Mussolini Took Power

Quintus Curtius has posted this little bit on Mussolini's rise to power. This caught my eye:
It was never established whether Mussolini was involved or knew anything about the plot beforehand.  He was certainly not above using violence, or encouraging its use, against political opponents; but such a reckless step probably was taken without his knowledge or approval.  Despite this, he was able to use the crisis that the murder generated to consolidate his hold on power.  Anti-fascist demonstrations escalated in the streets, general strikes were declared, and it seems that Mussolini would have to resign.

But the king did not call for him to step down.  His political opponents then committed a grievous error:  they left the field of political conflict and walked out of the Chamber of Deputies.  Trying to imitate the ancient Roman plebian practice of going to the Aventine Hill to protest measures taken by the nobility, the anti-fascist deputies probably thought that by walking out of the chamber they could pressure Mussolini to resign.  In this they were sorely mistaken.  The situation was getting more and more dangerous by the hour, until finally Mussolini (on January 3, 1925) threw down the gauntlet.  In a dramatic speech, he “assumed responsibility” (whatever that meant) for the crisis and dared those present to remove him or indict him.
Note well - not letting a crisis go to waste. Note well the cowardice of those who supposedly opposed him doing nothing to stop him (as with cuckservatives today).

The whole article is worth a read, but there are also a couple outstanding comments drawing parallels to Scott Adams discussing leftists making the fascist they want out of Trump, crony capitalism, and, of course, the history of Fascists being, by and large, really of the left. An excerpt from one:
Ultimately what must be understood is that big business (fortune 500 companies) have no problem working hand in hand with government so long as it is to their benefit. In face contrary to popular beliefs they want regulations, as they do not hurt the big giants the oligarchies, but wreck medium and small businesses causing them to either sell out to the oligarchies or go bankrupt. Hence Wall Streets support for Hillary and not Turmp. Much of this was genuinely popular with the people, and regardless of the fecklessness of the political parties in Italy, and Wiemar Germany, both Fascism, and National Socialism were for quite some time genuinely popular movements.

Review: The Stars Came Back, by Rolf Nelson

Helton Strom isn't having a good day. Or week for that matter.

A teacher who can't get the job he wants as pilot (even managing to break the simulator while testing), he decides to take a break to help out his sister, he then has his citizenship and job stripped from him, and is left adrift with nothing to do. To make matters worse, the ship has been hijacked by pirates, and he, and the passengers, have been stranded on a desert planet, to be used as slaves.

Little did he know things were already looking up.

First things first, the format. There are two editions of this book. The first is in a semi-screenplay format, the second is a standard prose style retelling that covers the first half called "Back From the Dead: The Stars Came Back" which covers the first half of the original, the second half is in process. It takes a while to get into the flow of things, but gives the story a very cinematic style, with internal thoughts, feelings, and dialog telegraphed by visual cues, what people do, what they say, and what the author, as "director", choses to focus on.

Which brings us back to the story.

After saving the prisoners with the help of another passenger, Strom stumbles into what looks like the chance of a lifetime. Free and clear ownership of an old, small transport that's desperately in need of repairs. And someone's already living on board. And hints build up that it has a mind of it's own - and we're not entirely certain it's sane.

It does appear... protective.

And things keep rolling from there.

It's been said that if you liked the freewheeling "western" feel of Firefly with an oddball crew, you'd probably like this. Except this has less corporate conspiracies, just as many nasty bureaucracies and power-hungry predators, and more explosions.

Lots more. That's what you expect when you add in mercenary companies, battle fleets, tanks, infantry action, and a rogue, abandoned battlestation.

Full of action and adventure, with a side dash of philosophy, it's an interesting tale of a man molding a new future, alliances, and a new, rag-tag "family," out of the people and materials at hand, and indeed, at the end, working to return the stars to mankind, instead of to the tyrants.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

John Wick Chapter 2 (is out)

... and I have yet to see it (but soon... soon....). As you well may know, I'm a huge fan of the first movie.

But others have, and they like it:
I'll be frank, I thought this movie was great. The lore from the first movie is expanded upon and given a real kick in the pants, John Wick himself shows even more charisma and surprising depth, and the supporting cast is even stronger than the one from the original. Everything is a step up.

But what about the action? Of course you want to know about the action.

Well. Um.

Let's put it this way. There's a scene where John Wick buys a bunch of different weapons (at least five by my count) and like some hyper-violent Chekov, ends up using them all until the ammo runs dry . . .

By the halfway mark of the film.
I think it has a chance of living up to my expectations, rather than falling to sequel-itis.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Civil Defense PSA

Back when Fukushima had it's issues due to an earthquake moving the entire island of Japan 8 feet over, Randall Munroe over at XKCD had not yet gone off the rails, and posted an interesting and highly useful infographic on radiation levels.

For people who hadn't been trained in radiation dosimetry, it certainly is a damned useful way to visualize the degree of hazard associated with the radiation released from Fukushima when broke down.

Girl Friday

Have a good Friday gentlemen.







David Weber and Womens Lib

I still remember when I first stumbled into a copy of Honor Among Enemies at the base library.

No, I didn't start David Weber's epic mega-series at the beginning.

So it's not with great sadness anymore - as this decision was made over a year ago - that I'm basically buying nothing of his anymore. I may - may I repeat - get the Zahn prequels, but the overlapping stories of the two main current-time branches are losing me, and he did two things that really turned me off on an author I've otherwise greatly enjoyed (and you can pry my copy of Death Ground out of my... you get the point...) and who is frankly a far more skilled storyteller than Scalzi.

It's always been pretty obvious that, despite being fairly conservative in a number of ways, he also is the archetype of the churchian feminist. Sure, he hangs a lampshade on most of his earlier instances, but case after case after case he goes for the female supergrrrrllll, not the least of which was Honor herself. Nevertheless, a lot of it was kept to a dull roar or otherwise lampshaded, while he wove stories integrating the closest thing space opera offers to technothriller weapons porn with a sweep of history and politics that showed a significant fundamental understanding of how people, trends, ideas, and technology impacted the great sweep of events.

So I was highly disappointed to hear him on the D6Generation making the comment that he's quite happy to see societies be ignorant enough to not let half their population participate and join the workforce, because they would be ruled by his daughters. I wasn't even that red-pilled at the time and that struck me as simply wrong. It amazed me even more because he had earlier pointed out how it was technology that gave women the opportunity to compete on a more level playing field.

My very first thought was - what if the technology becomes unavailable? What happens if you suddenly don't have all of those "equalizers" and men and women suddenly have to play to their strengths when it comes to combat, work, and raising kids?

I can also state that, technology is nice, but you'd have to have a practically magic set of power armor to render differences in human strength, endurance, and reaction times moot in giving people an edge over the other. Sure, a lot of the absolute differences can be made relatively small - guns take away a huge degree of the difference in size and strength, and to a lesser degree, skill and reactions - but it will still exist. There are still too many places on ships, and modern vehicles where raw strength is needed to get something moved into place quickly.

And freeing up half the workforce?

Lets imagine we have artificial wombs. Great. So you managed to cut down pregnancy related downtime to a month or two at most. Let's also imagine this has no long term hormonal, endocrinal, or other effects.

So?

Who takes care of the child? A parent has to, and overhead costs in "thread switching" between parents will cause them both to be less efficient at their work than if one worked and the other did not.

Well, day care! Right? I'd have to dig up the studies, but Stefan Molyneux cites that leaving a child in daycare most days of the week has the same impact on them as if you had simply abandoned them.

Besides, attentive childcare does not scale. Yes, one daycare nanny can take care of or watch a larger group of kids, but not by giving them attention. Dedicated attention is something that will be rarely given out - and larger families ensure sufficient attention by enlisting the older kids to help with responsibilities, babysitting, etc. - something a "everyone is the same age" daycare setup cannot handle. It's basically a hellhole of same-age kids running around largely unsupervised, already emotionally hurt because they feel like mommy abandoned them.

And who the hell is he to denigrate the work done by those mothers? Who is he to put down the generations before technological assistance who made the choice that worked for their societies and shaped their children?

Finally - who the fuck is he, or anyone, to say that it's perfectly OK to have a career in childcare but not OK to raise your own kids instead? Someone's got to do it, and do it right. It doesn't scale well done right. Done right, the people not doing childcare get to concentrate on their work and be more productive.

To get that "extra 50%" - more like 90%(update: 90% total, more like 40%), means a massive drop in the productivity in the parents, and problems with succeeding generations. Suddenly, one wonders if only having 50% "working" may not actually be better.

So that was the first item.

The second?

One of the Tor-published "Safehold" books - which I'd since stopped buying because "Tor."

That and it had started wandering off the rails in "the story never ends" sense too.

Nimue is a superpowered, immortal,  grrrlll power AI android carrying the personality of her source human, disguised (the bodies can transform) as a man. Several other woman characters were also brilliant spymasters, etc.

I could deal with that, easier even in more blue pill days. The "building up technology" path was cool.

There comes a scene several books in where a rescued princess is being taught how to shoot, and the horribly oafish - as bad as any L&O:SVU episode - misogynistic guardsman is "taught a lesson" by android Nimue, as a girl, who using superior mass, speed, strength, and near indestructibility takes him apart in hand to hand combat, breaking bones, etc. in the process.

If one wanted to make a point about "girls can", one could have had her show off shooting skills, or teach the princess and have her show off shooting skills.

No. In a society that was still largely steam driven, and even that was a recent advance, where muscle power was still a huge factor in combat, instead of showing off how well an equalizer could be used, she took apart a much larger man that no other woman on the planet could match, ever.

And the "good guys", who watched it via surveillance, gave their tacit approval.

That, for me, right there, lost it. Period.

I'm not getting rid of the Weber books I do have, but I'm never buying another one.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Infogalactic, Gab, and Helping Out


A theme that Vox Day has been hammering lately as Apple plays stupid games with accepting an iOS Gab app, as Wikipedia, publishing, the SF world, and so forth becomes progressively more converged, is that of helping out.

Every little bit helps. Even if you cannot provide assistance to a good project, you can help suffocate the beast by starving it of oxygen and resources.

If all you can do is to minimize your facebook usage, do so.

If you can start using Gab at gab.ai instead of Twitter, in whole or in part - do so.

Cite Infogalactic at infogalactic.com instead of Wikipedia.

If you have to post a reference to a mainstream media article at Salon, the Huffington Post, the NYT, the WashPo, and so forth, archive it first, and link to the archive. This not only starves them of ad revenue, it also minimizes the chances that they silently "correct" the article later.

If you can tell friends, family, and others about them, do so.

If you can contribute time to edit at infogalactic, do so.

If you can contribute to gab, the infogalactic "burn unit", or something similar, do so. They'd rather have steady, small contributions than big, showy ones.

If you have a choice between a book at a big 5 publishing outfit, and something less mainstream like Baen, Castalia House, or a number of excellent independent authors  - consider the alternate sources first. Castalia alone is taxing my ability to keep up with the reading, even without considering Nick Cole, Brian Neimeier, B V Larson, and others.

Every little bit helps. It matters not if you can only do one of these things, or all of them.

Go forth, help us take over the world, and have fun doing it!