Quotulatiousness

January 9, 2017

In praise of HGTV

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

Virginia Postrel on what makes HGTV successful:

For starters, they’re intriguing. Rather than rely on conflict to engage viewers, they offer a small mystery: Which place will the house hunters choose? How will the renovation turn out? They keep you hanging on until the big reveal. The formula draws the viewer into the story, inviting speculations and judgments.

Then there’s recognition. Watching HGTV, you see a broader swath of North Americans (including Canadians) than you usually encounter on mainstream TV: youth ministers and medical sales reps, black marketing managers and South Asians who don’t work in tech, lesbian farmers and home-schooling moms, people who live in Fargo, North Dakota, or Pensacola, Florida, or Waco, Texas, home of the hit show Fixer Upper. They speak with regional accents and come in all body types. And they’re all presented respectfully, as fine people the viewer can identify with. It’s the opposite of schadenfreude-driven train-wreck TV.

It’s uncynical. What makes HGTV feel so wholesome isn’t merely its lack of profanity but its lack of snark. Everyone is sincere and polite, sometimes obstinate but never mean. Writing about Fixer Upper hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines for Texas Monthly, New York journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner marveled at their authentic humility and humor. “They’re like that in person, funny and unguarded and with no fast answers,” she wrote. No wonder they easily weathered a brief controversy BuzzFeed tried to gin up over their pastor’s views on gays. They just don’t seem like haters.

On HGTV, optimism and love abound. Those qualities reflect the fundamental appeal of the network’s formula: It reverses entropy and celebrates home.

I don’t watch too much TV these days, but long before the explosion of cable channel options, I recall happily watching shows like This Old House, Hometime, and The New Yankee Workshop on the Buffalo PBS affiliate, so I’m quite familiar with the genre, if not the specific offerings of HGTV today.

January 7, 2017

QotD: LSD and the Baby Boomers

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

My classmates [destroyed themselves on drugs]. The authentic imaginations, the really innovative people of my generation, the most daring of my generation took the drug. Now I, for some reason, felt that the LSD was untested, and I did not want to experiment with it. But I was very interested in it. I was interested in all types of vision quests at the time. I went up with fellow students [from SUNY-Binghamton] to see Timothy Leary speak at Cornell. I saw him, and it made me uneasy that here was the guru with such a crowd around him, but his face was already twitching. I could see that this was not going to end well, and it did not.

So when I got to graduate school in 1968, I can attest to the fact that no authentically radical student of the 1960s ever went to graduate school. So all that were left were the time-servers, who parasitically [lived] on the achievements of the 1960s, for heaven’s sake. Any authentic leftist who had a job at a university in the 1970s or ’80s or ’90s should have been opposing the entire evolution of the university — that is, toward this administrative bureaucracy that has totally robbed power from the faculty. The total speciousness and fraud of academic leftism is proven by the passivity of these people in every department of the university to that power play that happened.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

December 30, 2016

University – now “a regular source for ‘What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?’ articles”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Will universities continue their decades-long flight from relevance to become the next decade’s equivalent of “Florida Man”?

My academic field, American Studies, is the interdisciplinary study of American cultures, past and present. Once it was a vibrant and useful discipline. Today, I’m sad to report, it is a regular source for “What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?” articles and blogs.

These days, when American Studies captures any attention, it’s usually for unfortunate reasons.

Sometimes, a jargon-y article wins an ironic bad writing award. Consider, for example this excerpt from a paper in the Australasian Journal of American Studies:

    Natural history museums, like the American Museum, constitute one decisive means for power to de-privatize and re-publicize, if only ever so slightly, the realms of death by putting dead remains into public service as social tokens of collective life, rereading dead fossils as chronicles of life’s everlasting quest for survival, and canonizing now dead individuals as nomological emblems of still living collectives in Nature and History. An anatomo-politics of human and non-human bodies is sustained by accumulating and classifying such necroliths in the museum’s observational/expositional performances.

Sometimes a pop culture class becomes an extramural joke, such as the “Zombie Studies” courses that were all the rage a few years ago. And sometimes an American Studies professor decides to use the classroom for “social activism” where the idea is to substitute studying with protesting.

I might chuckle if I weren’t employed and mentally invested in the field, and if I did not have residual respect for the open-minded, pragmatic approaches which marked American Studies for the first decades of its existence. But sadly, for the last generation, American Studies — beset by a nagging awareness that making interdisciplinarity the norm when studying culture became mission accomplished at least 20 years ago — has scooted pell-mell towards politicization in a misbegotten effort to remain relevant.

The result today is an academic sub-specialty wedded to a tightly-corseted belief that the United States represents the locus of sin (racism, sexism, colonialism, and the like) in the modern world, and that any study of America should restrict itself to call-outs and condemnations. American Studies now serves chiefly as validation system for academicians who know their findings in advance: racism, sexism, and imperialism.

Increasingly, the field is hostile to scholars who don’t want to use it just to berate American traditions and signal their imagined virtue.

December 23, 2016

QotD: How not to do scientific journalism

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

Something has happened at Slate. Until relatively recently, Slate‘s science page produced so much amazingly good content that we were tempted to link to them multiple times per day. In our 2013 list of the Top 10 Science News Sites, we awarded them an honorable mention.

But, that was then. Now, for some reason, Slate‘s science page has partially abandoned its strong tradition of in-depth analysis to promote an angry, opinion-driven reportage that is mostly aimed at insulting Republicans and Christians.

This is counterproductive. Science journalism that forsakes its primary mission of science communication to engage in partisan culture wars does a grotesque disservice to the scientific endeavor and is doomed to fail. Just ask ScienceBlogs, which has become a shell of its former self because, as the New York Times described, it became “Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd” that utilized “redundant and effortfully incendiary rhetoric.” Slate‘s science page is heading toward a similar path.

Alex B. Berezow, Slate‘s Science Page Has Gone Crazy”, Real Clear Science, 2015-05-25.

December 21, 2016

Mapping the new western caste system

Filed under: India, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

An interesting re-map of India’s caste system to modern day western society:

I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)

As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.

Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:

  1. Brahmins (scholars)
  2. Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
  3. Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laborers)
  5. Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).

The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?

In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.

Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.

Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…

QotD: The hidden hypnotic power of glamour

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

We’ve seen the same effect over and over again with people who comment on blogs (clears throat) both cultural and political, and even historical and that, no matter how often they’re proven wrong, keep coming back and stating the same thing they said in different words, as though that would make it true. They seem incapable of processing challenges, doubts, or even factual disproof of their charges.

Glamor. They’re under an enchantment. Something has affected them so hard, they can’t think, but can only repeat what they were told.

It’s not true, of course. Or not quite.

The enchantment of the “cool kids” is the glamor of social approbation and of opinions as positional goods.

People who have bought into an hierarchy of opinions, with some of the opinions “politically correct” no matter how factually wrong, have agreed to put themselves under the arbitrary power of others, and to subsume their reason and thought to them.

In other words, they have agreed not to think or see for themselves, because if they do they will be cast out of the “cool kids” and treated as pariahs or the enemy. And they’ve seen what happens to those (us) the calumnies, the big lies, the personal character destruction.

They’re so scared of it, that they’ll do anything and say anything and believe anything. Including changing their opinions on a dime, as the opinions of the “in crowd” change.

It’s hard to break enchantments. Particularly enchantments as ambitious as this, which attempts to make an entire culture see what isn’t there and ignore what is.

To cast it, it required tight control of mass media and gate keeping of culture, both powers that are fast running out on the gatekeepers, as the internet replaces their magic.

Some magic remains. Those organs of mass media that still have whatever power like their sources to have credentials: “editor at—” or even better “won prestigious award.”

Those awards, those positions are things to conjure with. Which is why the fight over the awards matters to the establishment, the “cool kids”. No matter how debased in the real world, those awards help them cast glamor over the unwary.

Which is why the screaming and the moaning, the gnashing of teeth and the politics of personal destruction over an award that has no monetary benefit.

Because it’s an aid to a glamor that’s fast fading.

Those involved would do well to keep their minds clear on two things: the instruments of the glamor are fading. You can’t keep them from fading, short of the sort of cataclysm that plunges the world into a medieval reenactment. And that too will take their instruments away.

Sarah Hoyt, “Glamor and Fairy Gold”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-02.

November 14, 2016

“… he should have subtitled it, ‘500 Years of Aristocratic Testosterone Poisoning'”

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

M. Harold Page, guest-posting at Charles Stross’s blog:

Every so often, somebody posts some wistful meme about how nice it would be if duelling were legal again.

I’m increasingly less gentle in my response. Partly I don’t want non-sword folk to start to thinking of Historical European Martial Arts as some kind of Fascist death cult (we really aren’t, and we’re a very geeky and inclusive movement).

Mostly though, as a historical novelist, swordsman, and father of a teenage boy, I can tell you that duelling was — and — a bloody stupid idea.

Look, I like swords. Love them, even.

I revel in their history, evolution and context. I get a buzz from handling originals — earlier this year, I examined a well-notched sword from the Battle of Castillon and I could almost hear the English army annihilating itself by charging a superior force in entrenched positions.

Most of all, I like fighting with swords or writing about people fighting with swords; Zornhau!

All this is what leads me to think duelling is essentially a bloody stupid idea.

[…]

People talk airily about duelling as a “safety valve” or a “test of manhood”.

However, consider what happens when it’s OK and almost mandatory for young men to challenge each other to mortal combat for reasons that can best be called whimsical…

Alfred Hutton — one of the saints of the modern Historical European Martial Arts movement (real soldier, instructor of sabre to the British Army, early investigator of Medieval martial arts treatises) — wrote a wonderful book called The Sword and the Centuries in which he gathered all the anecdotes of tournaments and duelling he could find. Honestly, he should have subtitled it, “500 Years of Aristocratic Testosterone Poisoning“.

Especially if you are the parent of a young man, or have ever sustained a sword injury, the sections on French duelling culture are truly horrific. Duelling wasn’t so much a safety valve as a public health emergency.

We’re talking young men going out for a bottle of wine and coming back in a hearse because another youth caught their eye in the wrong way and they felt impelled to issue an immediate challenge.

We’re talking three versus three duels where a stranger gallantly — read bloody stupidly — offers to make up the missing third on one side. And almost everybody dies.

Reading between the lines, we’re also talking appalling peer pressure, bullying and legitimised murder — a duel is an awfully handy way of getting rid of an unwanted heir or rival.

November 12, 2016

Information for would-be refugees from Trumpistan

Filed under: Cancon, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Mark Hill does a respectable job of explaining why running away to Canada isn’t necessarily the best option for Americans disgruntled with the outcome of the 2016 election:

… for everyone else — and I really apologize for how harsh this is going to be — Canada is not your fucking safety school. If you drive across the border, there will not be a career magically waiting for you in the middle of an economic downturn. If you’re a middle-class white guy and your first instinct is to abandon your country when you experience a setback, I’m not sure how you expect to ace a job interview here. “I was sad about my country so I decided to fall back on yours” is not a good answer to “What attracted you to this position?”

I spent a lot of time on social media during election night, because it was a great excuse to not work, and two things stuck out to me. I saw lots of Americans asking themselves how they could have gotten so out of touch with the world, and then several of my American friends with a history of making exhaustingly cliched maple syrup and igloo jokes asked me how my government worked. Because up until then, they had no clue and no interest. That’s not an approach to life that helps you settle down in a new country — it’s the approach that got you into trouble in the country you’re in now.

I also saw lots of comments about how dreamy the prime minister whom I and 60.5 percent of my fellow electorate didn’t vote for is. Because clearly, if there’s one salient thing you need to know about a country’s leader, it’s whether or not they’re fuckable. A nationality is not a sports team; you can’t just buy a hat and hop on the bandwagon. Canada recently welcomed over 33,000 people fleeing a brutal civil war. If you’re not also fleeing hatred, you’re going to have to do better than “I lost a fair and democratic election, even though I Tweeted a few zingers about it, so I’m crashing at your place. You guys have a king or whatever, right? Can I have a job? Or do I have to learn the rules of hockey first, eh?

[…]

We hated George W. Bush, and I have no doubt we’ll be making fun of Trump far more, and with all the undeserved arrogance of people whom the universe randomly placed in a different geographical location. So before that begins, let’s be clear that we still think you’re fantastic. But there’s something you need to understand.

No American I’ve ever talked to has realized just how much Canadian culture relies on the fact that we are not American. When you share the world’s longest border with the only world superpower, a country with 10 times your population, a constant reminder that “We aren’t them” is a requirement to avoid being culturally overwhelmed. Our old joke is that living next to America is like sleeping next to an elephant — even if it means you no harm, an errant twitch in the night can crush you. Hell, it’s even in our commercials. […] Those are just random trolls, but when Canada-U.S. relations are at their lowest, that’s how we think all Americans view us. Because you don’t have to care about us. And that’s fine. We’re not the superpower. It’s not like we’re experts on Italy or Mongolia or any other country that’s as irrelevant to us as we are to you. But we’re experts on you because it’s impossible not to be. And when you struggle, our arrogant side can’t help but laugh and think that maybe you should have paid a little more attention to us after all. We don’t want to be like you right now. But you can’t keep an elephant from rolling over onto you.

November 3, 2016

QotD: How culture is spread in theory and in practice

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

If mediation is necessary for the average person to understand art (and sometimes it is), then this mediation is available in profusion via the same channels as the arts themselves. The local library, your parents, friends, the internet, book clubs, private teachers, interested amateurs … the list goes on and on. These are the vectors by which “culture” is injected into society. We learn culture from the artists and from our fellow men, not from learned dons who sit around stroking their beards and fretting about the malign influence of the hegemonic white-male patriarchy.

“But the internet is full of lies, mistakes, craziness, and utter junk!” the humanities profs might reply.

This is true. But this is also true of university humanities departments. At least YouTube won’t charge you thirty grand a year to teach you nonsense.

Most university liberal arts programs are not really about the arts; they are about politics as expressed through art. These politics are nearly unanimously leftist, and even worse disdain the very social and cultural constructs that gave birth to the “liberal arts” in the first place: literacy, religious belief, cultural confidence, and the notion of excellence in artistic execution as well as artistic intent. The purpose of instruction in many cases is not to teach why this or that work of art is great; the intent is to instead subvert the work and show why it is not great (because the artist is too white, too male, too European, too far outside the Progressive political frame to be acceptable to correctly-thinking people).

These are the wages of relativism and deconstructionism and “critical theory”: there is no magnetic north the artistic compass can point to. There is no way to navigate this ocean. All the humanities professor can say is that since one point is as good as any other, maybe it’s better to just stay where you are. If you must move, any random direction is pretty much the same — there’s no real destination, so you can never be lost. This theory of the arts asks little and returns little; it nourishes neither life nor spirit. Perhaps this is why the humanities courses in universities are dying out.

Monty, “DOOM (culturally speaking)”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2014-10-28.

October 30, 2016

QotD: Hunter S. Thompson’s nihilism

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

Of course in [Hunter S.] Thompson’s world the Big Darkness is always coming. Every day it doesn’t come means it’ll just be bigger and darker when it finally arrives. He’s the anti-rooster, bitching about the dawn: sure, it worked today, but one of these days the sun won’t come up, and then where will you be? Sitting on your nest popping out eggs like THEY want you to, completely unprepared for the Big Darkness! Which will be huge! And dark!

It would be funny if it was, well, funny, but it’s not even that. It’s just rote spew from the other side of the latter sixties. You had your Hopeful Hippies, the face-painters and daisy-strewers, convinced that human nature and human history could be irrevocably changed if we all held hands, listened to “Imagine” and realized that the war is not the answer. Regardless of the question. But the other side was the sort of dank twitchy nihilism Thompson spouts. It has no lessons, no morals, no hope. Imagine, Winston, that the future consists of a boot pressing on a face. Here’s the worst part, Winston — inside the boot is NIXON’S FOOT.

Thompson has less hope than the Islamists; at least they have an afterlife to look forward to. All we have is a country so rotten and exhausted it’s not worth defending. It never was, of course, but it’s even less defensible now than before.

He can say what he wants. Drink what he wants. Drive where he wants. Do what he wants. He’s done okay in America. And he hates this country. Hates it. This appeals to high school kids and collegiate-aged students getting that first hot eye-crossing hit from the Screw Dad pipe, but it’s rather pathetic in aged moneyed authors. And it would be irrelevant if this same spirit didn’t infect on whom Hunter S. had an immense influence. He’s the guy who made nihilism hip. He’s the guy who taught a generation that the only thing you should believe is this: don’t trust anyone who believes anything. He’s the patron saint of journalism, whether journalists know it or not.

James Lileks, Bleat, 2004-05-17.

October 28, 2016

QotD: Today’s cultural elite

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

You may be wondering how our elite, or any elite, could rise to predominance in society they reject? Should not the elite be composed, as in the Old World, of those established ruling and land-owning families whose ancestors founded or conquered the social order, and hence are loyal to it? Or, in the New World, should not the elite be composed of self-made men whose genius and enterprise and good fortune enabled them to contribute so much to society, offering mankind oil and steel mills and rail lines and electrification, that the reward of the free market elevated them to wealth? Would not either an elite of lineage or an elite of money be loyal to the social order?

The answer is that the modern Progressive elite are not the children of iron who whose fathers won land by hard military service and fawning on princes, but neither are they children of wealth whose fathers’ stubborn hands won gold from a hard world by fawning on customers: our elite are self-selected and self-anointed, and they know nothing of the iron of war nor the gold of commerce.

The elite are people who flock to journalism and entertainment and politics and the academy, and they share one outstanding characteristic:

Even though their intellectual accomplishments are relatively modest, they take their ability to disregard morality as a sign of lofty and superior intelligence, as if disobedience were a difficult quadratic equation.

As a corollary, they assume that loyalty to morality can only be due to an absence of intelligence rather than the presence of experience, common sense, honor, grit, manhood, spiritual insight or upright character.

They are people less moral than the rest of us, and they take that lack of moral character to be a sign that both their moral character and intellectual ability supersedes our own.

The pop psychology of high self esteem, the loss of the Christian virtue of humility, is what allows them to have these inflated and false-to-facts self-estimations.

Fan as I am of the free market, Capitalism has one obvious drawback: it is too forgiving. Capitalist societies forgive entertainers and entrepreneurs their peccadilloes, their addictions to drugs or booze or porn or adultery or pederasty, because the society wants the goods produced by the entrepreneur and the diversions provided by the entertainer. There are times when your favorite song is the only thing fending off a gray and rainy day of despair; and nothing else will cheer you. Why should you care if the singer molests children? He does not live in your neighborhood. Your ill opinion will not affect him. There are times when the only car worth buying is your favorite make and model. Why should you care if the manufacturer is an anti-Semite? The free market does not condemn.

The entertainment and media markets are even less condemnatory: Artists are expected to be odd. What would in a normal society be a sin in the world of artists is an amusing eccentricity, or a source of insight, or a sign of the sanctity. In the Academic world, eccentricity to the point of sickness and madness is not a drawback, but a passkey to lauds and fame. See the case of Peter Singer of Princeton for details.

Democracy also has a drawback: our liberty allows for such license, that no accomplishment is needed ere one is called accomplished. Even our elitism is democratic: Anyone can be a snob!

All you have to do to achieve the paramount of the modern Decalogue is dishonor your father and mother; to be the modern version Horatio, all you need do is betray the ashes of your fathers and the altars of your gods. Hegelian evolution says that whatever comes later is better, right? Well, you come after your forefathers, and you are younger than your teachers, so you must know more.

To be a snob in the Old World you had to be born to a high family, or in the New, to earn a high place. But all you have to do to be a snob in the world of no-fault modern snobbery is look down on the giants who founded and fought for this nation.

John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.

October 20, 2016

QotD: The value of historical novels

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

As a specific genre, the historical novel is only about two centuries old. Historical fiction in the wider sense, though, is at least as old as the written word. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Homeric poems, the narrative books of the Old Testament, Beowulf — the earliest literature of every people is historical fiction. The past is interesting. It’s glamorous and exciting. Perspective allows us to forget that the past, like the present, was mostly long patches of boredom or anxiety, mixed in with occasional moments of catastrophe or bliss. Above all, it’s about us.

Have you ever stared at old family pictures, and had the feeling that you were looking into a mirror? I have a photograph of a great uncle, who was an old man before I was born. I never knew him well. But in that picture, taken when he was about fifteen, he has my ears and eyes, and he’s hugging himself and looking just as complacent as I often do. I have a picture of one of my grandmothers, taken about the year 1916 — she’s photographed against a background of flags and Dreadnoughts. She looks astonishingly like my daughter. It’s only natural that I want to know about them. I want to know what they were thinking and doing, and I want to know about their general circumstances.

For most people, even now, family history comes to a dead end about three generations back. But we are also members of nations, and what we can’t know about our immediate ancestors we want to know about our ancestors in general. You can take the here and now just as it is. But the moment you start asking why things are as they are, you have to investigate the past.

Why do men wear collars and ties and jackets with buttons that often don’t and can’t do up? It’s because our own formal clothing stands in a direct line from the English and French court dress of the late 17th century. Why do we talk of “toeing the line?” It’s because in 19th century state schools, children would have to stand on a chalked line to read to the class. Why does the British fiscal year for individuals start on the 6th April? It’s because, until 1752, we used the Julian Calendar, which was eleven days behind the more accurate Gregorian Calendar; and the first day of the year was the 25th March. Lord Chesterfield’s Act standardised us with Scotland and much of Europe, and moved the first day of the year back to January — but the fiscal year, adjusted for the new calendar, was left unchanged.

Why was Ireland, until recently, so devoutly Catholic? Because the Catholic Church was the one great institution of Irish life that could be neither abolished nor co-opted by their British rulers. Why is the Church losing its hold? Because it is no longer needed for its old purpose. The child sex scandals are only a secondary cause. History tells us who we are. We may feel trapped by it. We may glory in it. We can’t ignore it.

Richard Blake, “Interview with Richard Blake, 7th March 2014”, 2014-03-07.

September 19, 2016

Cultural appropriation

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

Larry Correia isn’t impressed when people scream “cultural appropriation” at him:

I’ve talked about Cultural Appropriation before, and why it is one of the most appallingly stupid ideas ever foisted on the gullible in general, and even worse when used as a bludgeon against fiction authors.

First off, what is “Cultural Appropriation”? From the linked talk:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

The part that got left out of that definition is that engaging in Cultural Appropriation is a grievous mortal sin that self-righteous busy bodies can then use to shame anyone they don’t like.

Look at that definition. Basically anything you use that comes from another culture is stealing. That is so patently absurd right out the gate that it is laughable. Anybody who has two working brain cells to rub together, who hasn’t been fully indoctrinated in the cult of social justice immediately realizes that sounds like utter bullshit.

If you know anything about the history of the world, you would know that it has been one long session of borrowing and stealing ideas from other people, going back to the dawn of civilization. Man, that cuneiform thing is pretty sweet. I’m going to steal writing. NOT OKAY! CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!

Everything was invented by somebody, and if it was awesome, it got used by somebody else. At some point in time thousands of years ago some sharp dude got sick of girding up his loins and invented pants. We’re all stealing from that guy. Damn you racists and your slacks.

This is especially silly when white guilt liberals try to enforce it on Americans, the ultimate crossroads of the world, melting pot country where hundreds of cultures have been smooshed together for a couple hundred years, using each other’s cool stuff and making it better.

This weekend I painted miniatures for a war game from Spain, played a video game from Belarus, listened to rap music from a white guy from Detroit, watched a cop show from Britain, had Thai food for lunch, and snacked on tikki masala potato chips, while one daughter streamed K dramas, another read manga, and my sons played with Legos invented in Denmark.

A life without Cultural Appropriation would be so incredibly boring.

And most of you missed the really insidious part of that that academic, all-consuming definition. Without Permission… Think about that. So how does that work exactly? Who do you ask? Sure, these new Lays Tikki Masala chips are delicious, but are they problematic? Who is the head Indian I’m supposed to get permission from? Did you guys like appoint somebody, or is it an elected position, or what? Or should I just assume that Lays talked to that guy already for me? Or can any regular person from India be offended on behalf of a billon people?

This is all very confusing.

But hang on… India owes me. That’s right. Because vindaloo is a popular Indian dish, but wait! It was actually Culturally Appropriated from the Portuguese hundreds of years ago. I’m Portuguese! I didn’t give them permission to steal the food of my people!

So we will call it even on these chips.

And don’t get me started on Thai food, because the Portuguese introduced the chili pepper to Thailand. YOU ARE WELCOME, WORLD!

September 17, 2016

QotD: Historical clangers in The Last Samurai

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

… the movie is seriously anti-historical in one respect; we are supposed to believe that traditionalist Samurai would disdain the use of firearms. In fact, traditional samurai loved firearms and found them a natural extension of their traditional role as horse archers. Samurai invented rolling volley fire three decades before Gustavus Adolphus, and improved the musket designs they imported from the Portuguese so effectively that for most of the 1600s they were actually making better guns than European armorers could produce.

But, of course, today’s Hollywood left thinks firearms are intrinsically eeeevil (especially firearms in the hands of anyone other than police and soldiers) so the virtuous rebel samurai had to eschew them. Besides being politically correct, this choice thickened the atmosphere of romantic doom around our heroes.

Another minor clanger in the depiction of samurai fighting: We are given scenes of samurai training to fight empty-hand and unarmored using modern martial-arts moves. In fact, in 1877 it is about a generation too early for this. Unarmed combat did not become a separate discipline with its own forms and schools until the very end of the nineteenth century. And when it did, it was based not on samurai disciplines but on peasant fighting methods from Okinawa and elsewhere that were used against samurai (this is why most exotic martial-arts weapons are actually agricultural tools).

In 1877, most samurai still would have thought unarmed-combat training a distraction from learning how to use the swords, muskets and bows that were their primary weapons systems. Only after the swords they preferred for close combat were finally banned did this attitude really change. But, hey, most moviegoers are unaware of these subtleties, so there had to be some chop-socky in the script to meet their expectations.

One other rewriting of martial history: we see samurai ceremoniously stabbing fallen opponents to death with a two-hand sword-thrust. In fact, this is not how it was done; real samurai delivered the coup de grace by decapitating their opponents, and then taking the head as a trophy.

No joke. Head-taking was such an important practice that there was a special term in Japanese for the art of properly dressing the hair on a severed head so that the little paper tag showing the deceased’s name and rank would be displayed to best advantage.

While the filmmakers were willing to show samurai killing the wounded, in other important respects they softened and Westernized the behavior of these people somewhat. Algren learned, correctly, that ‘samurai’ derives from a verb meaning “to serve”, but we are misled when the rebel leader speaks of “protecting the people”. In fact, noblesse oblige was not part of the Japanese worldview; samurai served not ‘the people’ but a particular daimyo, and the daimyo served the Emperor in theory and nobody but themselves in normal practice.

Eric S. Raymond, “The Last Samurai”, Armed and Dangerous, 2003-12-15.

July 28, 2016

QotD: Turning sex into a crime

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

Rape is a serious crime: those convicted of it face a lengthy prison sentence. Sexual foolishness or stupidity should not be a crime, although its protagonists may well be deserving of moral censure. There is a line to be drawn between sex that is criminal and sex that lacks the criminal culpability to warrant a lengthy prison sentence. In recent years, that line has moved so that those who deserve the shameful tag “rapist” are now joined by some who do not.

The point was well made by the journalist Sarah Vine, who wrote of sexual behaviour that should not be criminalised: “Let’s face it, we’ve all done it at one time or another. Shared a cab home with someone we shouldn’t have; invited the wrong guy in for coffee. Unless you’re a saint, the chances of getting through life without making at least one disastrous sexual choice are very small.”

Acts of sexual foolishness or stupidity by men and women, particularly the young, have always happened. But, as Vine pointed out, “it used to be that women who made stupid mistakes with men, who had non-violent sexual encounters in dodgy circumstances — while drunk or otherwise intoxicated, in the heat of the moment or for a million other reasons — did not wake up the next morning and decide they had been raped. They took a shower, gave themselves a stern talking to, maybe told a friend about it , had a bit of a cry — and then moved on as best they could, vowing along the way never to end up in that kind of damn stupid situation again.” Likewise, men who made stupid sexual decisions would, in days gone by, have learnt from their mistakes, often as part of a process of growing up.

But today, to use Vine’s words, “there’s a far easier option” for the woman: “blame the bloke” by “crying rape”. And for the bloke there is now the stark scenario of being woken up not just with a splitting headache and a guilty conscience, but by a policeman’s knock on the door.

Jon Holbrook, “New rape laws: turning sex into a crime”, spiked!, 2015-02-12.

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