January 29, 2018

A new collection of H.L. Mencken’s “The Free Lance” columns

Filed under: Books, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Reason, Bill Kauffman reviews S.T. Joshi’s new selection from H.L. Mencken’s Baltimore Evening Sun essays:

The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, American Mercury editor, and rumbustiously splenetic critic, who graced this orb from 1880 to 1956, would not be published in any major newspaper today. The reasons he foresaw over a century ago, when he decried the “cheap bullying and cheaper moralizing” whose purpose was the extirpation, the annihilation, of anything resembling a robust exchange of ideas. Two beliefs puffed up the righteous censor, according to Mencken: first, “that any man who dissents from the prevailing platitudes is a hireling of the devil,” and second, “that he should be silenced and destroyed forthwith. Down with free speech; up with the uplift!”

Plus ça change and all that.

S.T. Joshi, who has chosen his primary scholarly interests — Mencken, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce — with a fine eye for readability over reputation, has assembled a selection of Mencken’s Evening Sun “Free Lance” columns of 1911–1915 into a book called A Saturnalia of Bunk and contributed an informative introduction to it.

Henry Louis Mencken churned out six of these 1,200-word meringues every week, a vertiginous pace that makes Joyce Carol Oates look like Harper Lee.

Logorrheic bloggers aside, does anyone really have that much to say about the controversies of the day? Mencken once nicked Bierce for reprinting his early work, which was “filled with epigrams against frauds long dead and forgotten, and echoes of old and puerile newspaper controversies.” Is A Saturnalia of Bunk similarly irrelevant?

Happily, no. Although Mencken’s fusillades against, say, blue laws have grown fusty, his rousing conclusions — “the militant moralist tries to steal liberty and self-respect, and the man who has lost both is a man who has lost everything that separates a civilized freeman from a convict in a chain-gang” — have lost none of their punch.

These columns, composed while their author was on the shy side of middle age, afford, says Joshi, “a nearly complete view of Mencken’s political, religious, social, and cultural philosophy as it had evolved up to this point” — and this philosophy would largely remain constant for the rest of his rooted life. (Mencken, a dyed-in-the-wool third-generation Baltimorean, a sardonic citizen of his place, made his home in the house in which he grew up.)

Cheng I Sao – Pirate Queen – Extra History

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

Extra Credits
Published on 27 Jan 2018

She was the most ferocious pirate China had ever known. She was a powerful fleet commander, a sharp businesswoman, and a consummate strategist. She was Cheng I Sao, leader of the Pirate Confederation, and she lived her life on her terms.

“… those I know in the alt-right crowd dislike [Jordan Peterson] more than the honest progressives I know”

Filed under: Cancon, Education, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Zachary Slayback tries to discover why so many intellectuals dislike Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson:

I’ve spent the last few years thinking about how to upend higher education and have worked with some leading entrepreneurs and thinkers in this space. Continually, we come back to the question of liberal arts education and its value (remember, I studied philosophy!). Some people are too quick to dismiss liberal arts education as useless and not worth the time. Instead, they insist on purely vocational education. Yet many of the most successful and happiest individuals I know are widely read (rarely because of their college courses), can discuss ideas from Aristotle to Jung to Jacobs with you, and love the idea of entertaining big ideas.

I visited Peterson’s lectures and found them to be nuanced, intricate, and to jump well between clinical experience, psychological research (most of which was well-validated, hard to do in psychology), and Jungian myth interpretation. When he released his Bible lecture series, I found myself, for the first time since I was a child, intimately listening about the ideas that go into religion and how these ideas surface elsewhere in the culture. More than a decade of skepticism towards religious texts due to their shallow readings and uses for the Joel Osteens of the world melted away.

His lectures rarely touch on politics in any capacity. When it gets brought up, he’s quick to note that he does not oppose calling trans individuals by their pronouns but that he opposes having his language dictated by a central political committee. This seems commonsensical to me. Part of what made the American and Canadian traditions so egalitarian is their rejection of forced speech and titles.

And for those who listen to Peterson, he bridges any kind of ideological gap (in fact, those I know in the alt-right crowd dislike him more than the honest progressives I know). Peterson’s worldview is a classical liberal rejection of collectivism (an ideology that killed more than 50 million people in the 20th century alone) while simultaneously not falling into an atomized view of the individual relative to his culture.

Just last week, I met with an acquaintance in San Francisco, the Mecca of American political correctness, who described herself as a “liberal democrat type,” who had listened to and met Peterson at a company event. She admitted that she couldn’t read into his politics and found his talk compelling about the nature of the world, men in it today, and why people like Peterson must appeal to so many people outside the San Francisco and Washington DC bubbles. She was explicit in saying that she was neither a libertarian nor a conservative and still Peterson motivated her to introspect, read into Jungian archetypes, and better understand the culture that shapes the world.

She’s not alone. I regularly speak to friends and acquaintances from across the political spectrum who find value in Peterson’s talks. These are people years out of college (or who never went) who now pick up classics like Dostoyevsky, Jung, Neumann, and even the Bible with a critical intellectual lens. Peterson regularly talks about and shares letters from fans who admit that his moralistic talks inspired them to pull themselves together and “sort themselves out” by figuring out what they want from life and pursuing that. r/JordanPeterson (yes, he has his own subreddit) is filled to the brim with stories of people saying how Peterson helped them get control of their lives and navigate the world.

I’ve bought but not yet read Peterson’s recent book, 12 Rules for Life. It’s not the sort of thing I usually read, so I’m not quite sure what to expect (Indigo says it’ll be delivered tomorrow).

How the U.S. got shafted out of the FN FAL

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

Legally Armed America
Published on 31 Dec 2017

The FN FAL is one of the greatest battle rifles ever made. Politics caused the U.S. to pass on it while nearly every other NATO country in the world recognized its superiority. And the 7.62 NATO is one of the greatest battle rounds ever made. But we needed an intermediate round. Here’s the story.

* Be sure to join the web’s ONLY 100% pro-gun social community, Gun District at GunDistrict.com. It’s much like Facebook, but without the discrimination against gun owners.

QotD: Churchill’s drinking habits

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

In the not so distant past around the sodden precincts of Westminster you were as likely to spot a yeti as a sober politician. The level of drinking that went on among MPs and their leeches for most of the last century was prodigious and was by and large expected. It was, as Ben Wright describes in his breezy, anecdote-rich and instructive survey of booze and politics, part of a culture which was tolerated and, to a degree, encouraged.

It was not without justification, for instance, that Adolf Hitler, who might have been a nicer fellow had he not been a teetotaller, described Winston Churchill as an “insane drunkard”, a “garrulous drunkard”, and “whisky-happy”.

If Order, Order! has a star it is undoubtedly Churchill who rarely let a day go by able to pass a breathalyser test. On occasion he would have a glass of wine at breakfast followed by a liquid lunch which invariably included Champagne and brandy. At tea-time he would progress to whisky. Then he would wash down dinner with more Champagne and brandy after which he had at least another whisky. According to one loyal aide who may have been sight impaired he was never the worse for wear for this intake and he “never felt the slightest ill-effects in the morning”.

Alan Taylor, “Lush tales of our political classes’ drinking exploits”, The National, 2016-06-20.

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