Quotulatiousness

August 1, 2015

Cathy Young on similarities between the social justice movement and Stalinism

Filed under: History,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Cathy Young translated a passage from a Russian novel that shows rather well the similarities of modern-day social justice crusaders and WW2-era Soviet party discipline and practice:

The other day, I was re-reading Pretender to the Throne, the second book in the Ivan Chonkin trilogy by Vladimir Voinovich (the brilliant Russian writer I interviewed recently for The Daily Beast) and was particularly struck by one scene that I thought bore an uncanny resemblance to the online gang-ups on accused transgressors against political correctness that have become a common feature of the “social justice” community. The tragicomic scene, which takes place in a provincial Soviet town in the fall of 1941, shows a meeting of the district Communist Party committee which holds hearings on several cases of alleged violations of the Party code of conduct. It’s all here: the casual, innocuous remark interpreted as offensive; the demand for confession and repentance; the notion that maintaining one’s innocence or trying to minimize the “offense” compounds guilt; the escalating, absurdly ballooning accusations in which everything the accused says or does is taken as further proof of guilt; the pressure on members of the community to join the mob to demonstrate their own allegiance to the One True Ideology; the lack of human sympathy elevated to a virtue; the notion that proper “humanism” is not manifested in compassion but in “relentless war on all manifestations of hostile ideas.”

I decided to translate and post this passage (for various reasons, I wasn’t too happy with the version in the published English translation of the book) because I think it’s a remarkable demonstration of the ideological continuity between the Soviet/Stalinist version of the far left and today’s “progressive” Western version. Thankfully, minus the power to send people to the gulag.

A few explanatory notes. The action takes place several months after the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. A secondary character in the novel, collective farm chairman Ivan Golubev, attends a local Communist Party meeting for a hearing on charge of violating Party discipline. Before his own case comes up, he gets to witness the “trial” of another accused man, Shevchuk, a schoolteacher in his fifties. Presiding over the meeting is district Party chief Andrei Revkin.

Other explanatory notes are included in the text in brackets where necessary.

Ayn Rand’s Ideal

Filed under: Liberty,Media,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Vice, Milo Yiannopoulos discusses the long-lost-then-found early Ayn Rand novella Ideal, which Rand reworked into a play:

According to Michael Paxton, who directed the world premiere of the play in 1989, Ideal gives readers an insight into Rand’s state of mind in the early 1930s: Her first novel, We The Living, had been rejected by publishers for being “too intellectual,” and the writer was struggling with odd jobs, having recently moved to the United States.

“It examines the artist’s process,” Paxton told me from his hotel room in North Carolina, where he was set to give a talk at the Ayn Rand Institute’s Objectivist Summer Conference. “How do you be an artist and live in the world at the same time? It’s amazing how, once you’ve lived a little in the world, you can really understand these characters and the issues they’re dealing with — not being understood, thinking the world doesn’t care whether you live or die.”

His assessment is not universal. Perhaps predictably, the New York Times hated the play when it premiered off-Broadway in 2010, concluding that, “the show’s clumsy mix of long bursts of theory and a laborious plot would test the endurance of even Alan Greenspan, a famous Rand admirer and veteran of long, boring meetings.”

As a play, Ideal went unperformed for 60 years after its writing, and was never seen on stage in Rand’s lifetime, though Paxton says that may have something to do with its practical demands: The play has 37 characters and tons of set changes. But he thinks it’s worth the effort: “What’s surprising about the play is that it has a lot of humour, and a lot of satire in how it makes fun of organized religion. It’s subtle, and very funny.”

The good news is the new edition also includes the entire play script. So you can gather 37 of your closest right-wing nutcase allies — or lefty culture jammers, as you prefer — and stage it yourself to find out.

Ideal the novel, which Rand herself set aside as unsatisfactory, is less polished than the stage version, and, despite flashes of Randian flair, there is evidence that the author was still struggling to find her voice. Readers familiar with The Fountainhead will recognize the seeds of that work in this early effort. Thankfully, though, Ideal is not one of those works of juvenilia that ought to have remained lost.

Rand’s critics, often humourless literalists, will find plenty in Ideal to gnaw on: There’s the classically Randian was-it-rape-or-wasn’t-it sex scene and a blisteringly heartless remark after a death that will have fans sniggering and detractors drumming up all the manufactured fury they can muster. And, yes, Rand’s writing can be a bit… much.

But profound, existential loneliness, coupled with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer–esque sense of ordained personal greatness is why so many cheerleaders for capitalism relate to Rand’s lead characters, from Gonda to The Fountainhead‘s Dominique Francon.

The Streisand Effect – Trying to Hide Things On The Internet I INTO CONTEXT

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Jan 2015

One of the biggest news stories this Christmas was the (un-)cancelled release of Sony Pictures’ movie The Interview. In the movie, Seth Rogan and James Franco try to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. After terror threats against movie theatres showing the film, Sony cancelled the release of the movie. This ultimately increased the movies attention and made the later online release the most successful one this year. Actually, there is a name for this kind of phenomenon: the Streisand Effect. In this episode of INTO CONTEXT, Indy explains why it’s not always smart to try to hide things on the internet.

QotD: How to write a headline about a “scientific” result

Filed under: Humour,Media,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… let’s not forget the Heads We Win Tails You Lose rule of the in-group affirmations which we loosely call “social sciences.”

Suppose you run a test to distinguish whether women, or men, are more willing to hire family — that is, engage in nepotism — when filling a job.

If it turns out that men are more likely to engage in nepotistic practices, the study will be titled:

Women More Ethical in Business Dealings Than Men

On the other hand, if it turns out that women are more likely to approve of nepotism, whereas men are less likely, the study will have the title:

Women More Caring Towards Family Members; Men Care Only About Filthy Careerism & the Welfare of Total Strangers Who Might Be Rapists

Ace, “Shock: Social Scientists Determine Conservatives Are Stupid”, Ace of Spades HQ, 2014-09-09.

July 31, 2015

Russian Roulette – Germany Helps The Bolsheviks I THE GREAT WAR Week 53

Filed under: Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 30 Jul 2015

After Russia’s Great Retreat and the defeat on the Eastern Front, the Russian Army is demoralized and even revolution is in the air. Germany is fanning the revolutionary flames by sending Bolshevik prisoners of war back to Russia – equipped with money to support the Bolshevik cause. Meanwhile, the the war is continuing on the Western Front. Even small skirmishes are turning into atrocious battles with little gain for either side. A great offensive is not in sight.

@DrawPlayDave explains how he decides what to put in his webcomic

Filed under: Football,Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

A brief Twitter exchange between Dave Rappocchio (@DrawPlayDave) and Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL):


Rapido’s Real Train Car Restoration: 1

Filed under: Cancon,Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 21 Jul 2015

The guys at Rapido Trains bought a full-size Pullman sleeping car and are in completely over their heads.

Sarah Hoyt on being a time-traveller

Filed under: Europe,Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Earlier this month, Sarah Hoyt explained how a time-traveller from the (recent) past might be able to handle the changes encountered on visiting our modern world:

Yesterday some point was raised about how an early twentieth century person would react to the modern day.

Well, give them some years to adapt. I know. You see, I am a time traveler.

I think I have mentioned in the past that I was reading a book on the Middle Ages (the Time Traveler’s Guide to the Middle Ages, I think) and kept coming across things that I went “so?” on. Because they were the same conditions I grew up in.

It’s hard to explain, truly, because we had buses and cars (not many cars. For instance there were two vans and one car in the village. When I had a breathing crisis in the middle of the night (every few months or so till I was six) we had to knock on the door of the grocer across the street who — poor man, may he rest in peace, he died with Alzheimer’s — is as responsible as my parents for my still being here. He would throw on clothes at any hour of the day or night and drive us to emergency in the city, then wait with my parents until he found out if I’d be sent back home or kept on oxygen.

We also had telephones. In the grocery store. If something dire happened to one of the relatives overseas, they’d call, and so when we got the knock on the door and “call for” we knew it was bad news. Only worse news was a telegram. Mind you, my brother used that phone to call in song requests to request programs on the radio. (Programa de pedidos.)

Oh, yeah, we had radios. Everyone had a radio, even my grandparents, and had had them from the beginning of the century. There were dead tube radios in the attics, which is how I built myself my first radio. (“Dad, I want a radio.” “Good, you can have one.” And then he went back to reading Three Men In A Boat. I’m not actually joking.)

And then there were televisions. Well, every coffee shop had a TV, which is how they attracted the after-dinner crowd who, for cultural reasons, were mostly male. Then again the nearest coffee shop was a mile away. Through ill-lit streets. So, yeah.

My godmother and the housekeeper for the earl’s “farm house” catercorner from us had TVs. We often went to watch TV with the housekeeper, when the earl and his family wasn’t in (which was 99% of the time.) And all I have to say about my godmother’s door pane is that she really shouldn’t have gone on vacation at the time of the moon landing. And besides we cleaned up and left her money for the replacement. (Sheesh.)

[…]

I not only didn’t see a dishwasher till I was 12 (I think) but, having heard of them, I imagined them kind of like the robot diners in Simak. Arms come out the wall and wash dishes.

I was by no means the person from the most backward environment to become an exchange student. I certainly didn’t come from as backward a place as my host-parents expected (look, host-mom was descended from Portuguese. What she didn’t realize was that it had changed since her grandma’s stories.) They showed me how to flush the toilet…

However there were myriad culture shocks. The all-day TV, for instance. (I watched for two days solid, then decided it wasn’t my thing.) But mostly, at that time, the culture shock was the prosperity. My host mother bought a small TV for the kitchen on a whim, at a time when, in Portugal, you’d still have to save for years to buy ANY TV. Or the things considered necessary. We had patio furniture, though I don’t think anyone but me EVER went outside. (Not to blame them. Ohio has two seasons: Deep Freeze and Sauna.)

The refrigerator. When I came over we had a fridge. We got a fridge when I was ten. But a) it was the size of a dorm fridge. b) mom was still in the habit of shopping every day. So the morning was devoted to shopping for the food for lunch/dinner. The main thing we used our fridge for was ice-cubes, one per drink, because more than that might kill you.

My host family shopped once a week, and kept stuff in the deep freezer, so you didn’t need to run out to get food every day.

QotD: “Having it all”

Filed under: Media,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In 2012, Gloria Steinem complained that the Have It All question was a “bullshit” question because no one ever asked that question of men. It’s true. Society doesn’t often ask that question of men, but not because of sexism.

Women ask about having it all because they were told they could have it all…by women like Steinem. The old glossy women’s magazines are full of have-it-all glamour, declaring that women could easily have it all without men. Steinem did not actually coin the “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” quip, but she got the credit for it because it succinctly represented her preaching and the mood of the time. Women didn’t need anything but the old rules and the old men to get out of their way. Each woman was an island unto herself, a self-contained unit of success. Eventually, all of those things we told women back in the 60s to boost their confidence and get them out in the world became the standard by which we now demand singular performance from women.

Check the commentary in many of the lauded feminist pop culture franchises, most recently “Divergent,” “Frozen,” “Maleficent,” etc. Characters get the feminist seal of approval when they are separated from any sort of partnership with men. Having it all doesn’t count unless we are doing it without men.

Men, on the other hand, didn’t have some masculinist movement telling them that they could have it all, much less that they had to do it all on their own. Nor would they have been as receptive if they had. Unlike girls who tend to engage in pretend play in which they are the princess, then the chef, then the teacher or the pupil, all in the space of an afternoon, boys tend to also play games with rules, even if they’ve made them up by consensus. The boy who isn’t fast learns to hit the ball harder or to catch. They train each other in tradeoffs. The rules don’t bend. The boys adapt to the world the way it is. (I host large parties and play dates often. This plays out in my yard, every time.)

Asking women if they can have it all isn’t sexism. It is an aspiration that women who should know better foist upon women who don’t.

Leslie Loftis, “Irony, Thy Name Is Feminism”, The Federalist, 2014-07-28.

July 30, 2015

Perfect political imagery – the Senate as “our great constitutional appendix”

Filed under: Cancon,Government,Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Richard Anderson explains why unlike most mature countries, Canada is unable to amend the constitution:

The Senate is our great constitutional appendix. It gets a bit inflamed from time to time but, a hundred and fifty years in, we’ve generally come to the conclusion that it’s too much of a hassle to get rid of. In other countries, normal nation states, amending a constitution is just one of those things. There’s a convention, people argue about it and eventually some words get swapped in and out of the country’s basic law. The Americans might go so far as to fight a civil war over such things, but for most countries it’s routine stuff.

Having successfully avoided civil wars, insurrections, coup d’etats and other assorted public disturbances, the Canadian project has retained one bizarre character flaw: Our inability to amend the constitution in anything like a sensible manner. For those old enough to have lived through the constitutional wars of the 1970s and 1980s the very mention of the C-word induces terrible flashbacks. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can see Joe Clark talking about amending formulas. In those moments I question the existence of a merciful God.

The latest idea to drift out of the PMO is that Stephen Harper will stop appointing Senators. This is actually quite similar to how the PM approaches maintenance on 24 Sussex Drive. The official residence is almost as old as Canada itself. Unfortunately so is much of the plumbing. The building is literally falling to bits and requires millions in renovations. Being a politician first and a government tenant second, Stephen Harper knows that doing more than the bare minimum to keep up his Ottawa home will provoke shrieks of outrage from the Opposition. Only when the building finally collapses will anything really be done. And at three times the original price.

This same logic will now be applied to the Senate. The PM will stop appointing senators until there is no more Senate. Sounds neat, eh? Except that the Senate is ensconced into the bedrock of our constitutional order. If the number of living breathing Senators drops below quorum the Supreme Court, the real rulers of our fair Dominion, will order the PM to appoint more. Then the PM of the day, perhaps Mr Harper or Mr Mulcair, will shrug their shoulders and do as their bosses tell them.

The only way to get rid of the Senate is to amend the constitution. Like going to the dentist this would be both painful and expensive. Unlike going to the dentist it would also be interminable. Dentists, you see, have golf games. Constitutional lawyers don’t play golf. It would interrupt from their fascinating work of discussing whether or not the power of disallowance is genuinely obsolete. If you don’t understand what that means don’t worry neither do they.

It’s our Birthday! – One year on THE GREAT WAR

Filed under: History,Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 28 Jul 2015

We can’t believe it’s already been a year working on the great war!
Thank you so much for your great support. We hope you enjoy our little special, and if you’re up for even more History check out our sister-channel IT’S HISTORY: http://bit.ly/ITSHISTORYSHOW

If you listen to their music, why not drink their hooch?

Filed under: Business,Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Boing Boing, David Pescovitz alerts us that The Pogues have lent their name to a new irish whiskey:

Pogues Irish WhiskeyCeltic punk bank The Pogues have launched a signature brand of Irish whiskey. Made by West Cork Distillers, “it’s said to be Ireland’s highest malt-containing blended Irish whiskey, with 50% grain and 50% single malt liquid.”

The Pogues’ singer Shane MacGowan is well known for his adoration of alcohol. According to his memoir, A Drink With Shane MacGowan, he started at age five with two nightly pints of Guinness given to him by his parents, and never really stopped.

Stary Olsa covers the Red Hot Chili Peppers on medieval instruments

Filed under: Europe,Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 29 Apr 2015

Stary Olsa performing “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers for Belarusian TV-show “Legends. Live” on ONT channel.

Produced by Mediacube Production. (Minsk, Belarus)

H/T to Open Culture.

QotD: Not your mother’s feminist movement

Filed under: Media,Politics,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Feminism won, they succeeded, they got what they were after. They destroyed the glass ceiling, they smashed sexism in the culture, they’ve wiped out all kinds of barriers. A strong feminist would say there’s plenty of work to do but if they are honest, they’ll admit there really isn’t much left.

Compared to 1966 when NOW was founded, today is amazingly triumphant for the cause.

And when you succeed, people strangely feel no need to keep supporting the cause. Once the airplane was designed and functional, people stopped trying to make airplanes. Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball[, …] there wasn’t any need to keep pushing to get blacks in baseball.

The truth is, feminists got what they were after. Even in bad economic times, women are doing well. Women lost far fewer jobs and lost less earning power during the recession than men. Women are accepted in pretty much every position and job they try for. There are women on submarines these days in the Navy.

Feminism, at least as defined by the NOW crowd, is pretty much rejected by young women today. They don’t want any part of the “never shave, men are rapists, we are oppressed” outlook of the modern feminist. They liked the “stop treating me like an idiot child and let me have that job” sort of feminist, but that’s not what NOW offers.

Like most activist groups, NOW and other feminist organizations are casualties of their own success. They did what they set out to do. They succeeded. They won. And having won, now they have no purpose and are losing influence, power, and money.

But they also suffer what most organizations — especially activist ones — face. Each successive generation of leadership tends to get more radical rather than less. Unless the organization consciously and continuously strives to remain neutral or conservative, it becomes increasingly leftist over time. This is an artifact of the very nature of activists. People who are so driven and passionate about any one cause tend to be more emotionally driven and more radical by nature. Over time that increases each step and eventually you end up with loons in charge.

The Sierra Club was founded to enjoy and protect beautiful areas, they were naturalists. These days they’re radical environmentalists. Most large religious denominations face this as well, as more conservative and doctrinally-concerned leadership gives way to more “modern” and culturally-driven leadership and they lose their way.

So the organizations of feminism are facing success not with joy and triumph, but with greater wails of despair as they see (or invent) greater areas of horror and crisis. And as they grow ever more radical, they get ever less influential and meaningful in the culture.

Most women today would call themselves feminist but they usually will qualify that with “but not like those feminists.” The only ones who cling to the “those feminist” sort are college sorts and the kind of radical men-haters that folks like Rush Limbaugh like to ridicule.

Christopher Taylor, “WOMYNISTS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-06-04.

July 29, 2015

How Buildings Learn – Stewart Brand – 1 of 6 – “Flow”

Filed under: Randomness,Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 10 Jun 2012

This six-part, three-hour, BBC TV series aired in 1997. I presented and co-wrote the series; it was directed by James Muncie, with music by Brian Eno.

The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.

Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.

Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital — shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.

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